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flight planning: distinguishing scheduled and charter flights



    What is a charter flight and what is a scheduled flight?


    It is often difficult to tell which flight is scheduled and which is charter. Today, these 2 categories  are not as distinct as they were before. The characteristics are often mixed: as airlines are adapting to the air travel market's demands, they change certain properties of their services.

    Generally, scheduled flights are those that operate on internal and international routes, in accordance to national/international conventions and a previously fixed schedule. The respective airlines also have to obtain certain licenses from the government(s).

    Charter flights are organized directly from departure place to destination without any intermediate stops. This gives a great advantage to this category, because operational costs are reduced and the passengers arrive faster to their destination. Usually there are more seats on such planes, this means less comfort, less room for leg and elbow.

    Despite these differences, many people today still can't distinguish these 2 services due to the fact that there are charter flights that operate to a schedule and often the scheduled flights have cramped seating like charters do.

    Tickets for scheduled trips are sold by the airline or through a travel agency, whereas charter flight tickets are usually not sold by the airline, but by various intermediate companies (travel agents, tour operators) which have allocated seats on the planes.

    An essential difference can be observed in the marketing policies and budgets. In general, charter airlines have smaller marketing budgets than than the scheduled ones (which usually have much larger profit and geographic coverage).

    Unsold seats for scheduled trips are usually "returned" to the airline weeks before the departure, but in the case of charter, the operator pays for the allocation, even if he cannot fill the seats. This is why almost overnight, operators reduce the price of seats when they cannot fill them all with passengers.

    Most charter carriers offer a small number of trips, which are direct. Numerous such flights are periodic, usually serving holiday trips, organized in a certain period each year. But this is not a general rule. Some examples of charter routes: from Germany to Mallorca, from the UK to the Dominican Republic, from Spain to the Canary Islands, from the US to the Caribbean Islands and the list could go on...

    Who wants to be as economic as possible should choose charter, which usually has lower price, but is more uncomfortable and has lower frequency rate. Though, some low fare carriers offer a third alternative, which is cheap, has larger frequency rate and in many cases operates to a schedule. Of course, you don't get food on low cost trips unless you pay for it!



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