Charter, Lease or Purchase an Aircraft?


Well that's a very complex and personal decision. Many factors influence the decision process but basically these can be broken down into three main areas:

  1. Aircraft Usage
  2. Organizational Structure
  3. Financial Status
Boeing 767

Aircraft Usage...

Purchasing: As your intended usage is limited and you probably lack the required infrustructure, owning your own aircraft is not a realistic proposition.

Leasing: The main alternative to charter an aircraft is an ACMI/Wet Lease.

As described in our Aircraft Leasing Definition page, lease agreements of less than two years or on a seasonal basis are usually conducted under an ACMI/Wet Lease agreement. As ACMI is mainly used for seasonal programs, as well as start-up airlines that feel it more beneficial to operate under this type of lease agreement, initially anyway.

Air Charter: Generally speaking, there are four types of Aircraft Charter... Air Taxi, Ad Hoc, Frequent Membership and Full (Public) Charter.

If your planned usage is only an odd flight or a few hours a month then an ad hoc charter or an Air Taxi is the recommended route for you, especially if you are travelling between non-serviced airports.

On the other hand, if your requirement requires higher utilization then you should consider a Frequent Membership Charter program, of which there are many.

If your requirement requires a much higher utilization, as would a Tour Operator or a start-up airline, without an AOC, then you should consider conducting your flights under a public charter.

Organizational structure...

In order to operate an aircraft commercially you will need the infrastructure to do so, this may be in the form of experienced personnel, maintenance facilities etc. Without these resources you will need to consider a full charter program or ACMI lease.

If your organization does not have, or access to, or does not intend to obtain an AOC then you cannot commercial operate an aircraft. As previously mentioned, in this situation flights can only be operated under a public charter contract. A third party airline or aircraft operator would perform the flights under their AOC and be responsible for all aspects of the flight. Tour operators and small start-up airlines may well use this option rather than going through the certification process prior to start-up.

Hawker 850XP

Financial status...

Chartering an aircraft is generally more expensive than other options but our decision to charter in more due to convenience, limited utilization, regulations, organizational structure and so forth.


Cost of chartering an aircraft can be restrictive but due to the limitations mentioned above, it can offer many benefits over traditional airlines and other leasing options.

If after reviewing the information here you are undecided whether you should charter, purchase or lease an aircraft then please visit our Purchase Aircraft and Leasing Aircraft Aviation Library pages for more details on these options.