What Is Air Charter Service (and How Can It Help)?

Does this sound like you? The parts that your business urgently needs are sitting on a supplier’s dock 1,200 miles away. You need them at your plant 12 hours from now to avoid a major catastrophe. If you ship them on ground transportation, you’re looking at a minimum of 24 hours on the road. How can you possibly meet the deadline? The answer is air charter service. On-demand (non-scheduled) air charter service utilizes an exclusive-use freighter or passenger aircraft to expedite cargo or people from point to point. Simply put, you’re renting an entire plane for a specific cargo movement. Whether domestic or international, it’s the fastest possible option when something must reach a distant destination quickly. Here are the most common uses of air charter:

Common Uses of Air Charter

1. Time-Critical Cargo Transport

Air charter service is used all over the globe to transport important items from place to place and meet time-critical deadlines. It could be a large shipment of personal protective equipment heading to a critical destination, or a pallet of key parts on its way to a production plant.

There are many reasons why you might need to speed up the timeline on a shipment, particularly in today’s fast-paced and globally connected marketplace. Depending upon the type and size of aircraft, air charter service can reach far more points on the globe than scheduled commercial airline service and more quickly. In the US alone, there are over 5,000 general aviation airports, enabling charter aircraft service to a vast number of destinations — either directly, or in close proximity — including remote sites that could take days to reach by ground transport services.

Air charter service is popular with major manufacturing companies that rely on just-in-time, or JIT, supply for their facilities. JIT means that the company keeps their on-hand inventory of production parts to a minimum, and inventory arrives at the facility very close to the time it’s used to produce the next production units. If the regular mode of JIT transport gets delayed, or a supplier is backlogged, the threat of lost production time is imminent and comes at a significant cost. Air charter service can be the most viable solution.

2. Emergency and Public Interest Benefits

Air charter service can also be effective in the event of national supply shortages and natural disasters. It’s the most agile way to deliver critical goods almost anywhere in the world; and in many cases, it’s the only immediate solution. For example, after a natural disaster that devastates infrastructure, typically the first priority is clearing local airports to allow air charter service operations.

Throughout 2020 and 2021, large aircraft flew personal protective equipment to support the needs of healthcare providers. Products manufactured in Asia needed to reach points around the globe within days, not weeks or months. Air charter providers, such as Hurtler, arranged these shipments by securing aircraft to meet specific timelines.

When a major freeze hit the state of Texas in early 2021, it left millions of residents without power, and many companies with a short supply of inventory. Shortly after power was restored, air charter services were utilized to bring in replacement products to get communities back on their feet.

3. Payload and Cost-to-Value Factors

A very common misperception is that air charter service can only accommodate certain types of cargo. In fact, across the entire spectrum of aircrafts in service, air charter has the ability to transport virtually any cargo or payload, from documents on a small plane to heavy-lift payloads exceeding 250,000 pounds or 600 cubic meters, equivalent to multiple ocean containers.

The cost basis for air charter service is higher than scheduled airline services, ground transport or ocean freight: in certain scenarios, significantly higher. However, the cost-to-value model for air charter is very attractive based on its ability to provide maximum flexibility and customer support, customization to unique requirements, and of course unparalleled speed. That’s the ultimate benefit, and at Hurtler, our air charter service proposition is, “We deliver the most valuable commodity in transportation — time.”

How Air Charter Service Works

In order to utilize air charter service, you’ll need to understand the basics and who to contact. The first step is finding a plane. You’ll want to work with a known provider who can arrange the proper type of aircraft operating in compliance with applicable regulations. This could be anything from a small prop plane to a large, wide-body jet. The size of aircraft you need will be determined by the characteristics of your shipment.


The provider you settle on will also help you with the scheduling details for your cargo. The provider will need to know:
• The location of the cargo and whether it needs to be picked up
• The exact dimensions of the cargo
• The destination
• The desired time of arrival at that destination
• Any special handling needs


Once they have that information, they will:
• Procure an aircraft
• Choose an airport
• Arrange ground transport to the origin airport, and from the destination airport, as needed
• Schedule arrival and departure days and times
• Line up ground crews for transfers
• And other logistical details

In North America, air charters from time of quote to arrival at destination can be completed within 12 hours or less, and it’s possible for dispatch to occur in as little as two hours after quote. International air charters will take longer depending on the scope, but can usually be managed within 24 to 48 hours or less.

The process of booking an air charter from an expert provider, like Hurtler, can be relatively simple and quick, assuming you’ve defined your objectives and have the necessary cargo data ready to go. With the correct data, Hurtler can typically start giving you multiple options within as little as 30 minutes, and provide the solution you choose 24/7/365 — all just one phone call away.

For more information about air charter solutions, visit our air solutions page.

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