Charter Airlines

Can anyone explain what a charter airline is? I have researched on Wikipedia and it tells me that: “Air charter is the business of renting an entire aircraft as opposed to individual aircraft seats.” This confused me because apparently airlines such as ‘TUI’ and the former ‘Thomas Cook’ are/were charter airlines. Now this got me thinking, TUI own their own aircraft right? And passengers don’t pay for the whole plane but only their seat. So I guess another question is, what makes TUI a charter airline? It would be great if anyone could explain this.

Thanks, Jacob

Let’s take a practical example:

You are the owner of the charter airline TuttiFrutti. You have a fleet of 4 Airbus A320s, but do not offer your own scheduled flights with them.

I am a travel organizer. I want to fly with a tour group from Manchester to Ibiza. I have 2 options in this situation: Either I book all my travel guests on individual scheduled flights, or I organize an airplane.

In this situation, I turn to you and charter one of your A320s. So I don’t buy individual seats but the whole plane for a single flight. For this flight, I am now selling the seats. So you as a charter airline provide me with your plane for a fee. As a travel operator, I then take care of filling the aircraft.

You gave TUI as an example. These are a special case because they organise the trips themselves. For these trips they use their own planes. However, it is also possible for independent travel organisers to contact TUI. Then my previously given example is used again.


Thanks this clears this up!


Adding onto Marc’s exemplary example, which has already answered your question, there is this one or sort of, four more things that could be good to note; That there are multiple kinds of Air Charter, and it can be good to know the difference between them, and how they work.

  • Private Charter
    Also known as private jet charter or air charter, it’s when an individual rents an entire aircraft (chartering) as opposed to purchasing individual seats on a commercial airline (purchasing a first-class ticket through any major commercial airline). Flights can range from individual travel on small planes to group flights of up to 50, 100 or more passengers using regional and VIP airliners. It’s called single entity, which is when an individual or company must cover the entire cost of the flight; Where the total cost can be split and collected afterwards accordingly, but the initial payment for these flights must be billed to the individual named on the contract. This category is where you mentioned, “Air charter is the business of renting an entire aircraft as opposed to individual aircraft seats.

  • Public Charter
    These types of flights are frequently offered by air carriers on a seasonal basis, operating on limited schedules (once or twice a week) depending on the time of year. They’re very popular among European holiday travellers in places like the UK, Sweden and Germany to reach tropical getaways in Sicily, Malta, Rhodes and Palma de Mallorca. They can include operators from low-budget airlines to regularly scheduled carriers. Public charters may also come from tour operators renting an aircraft, then advertising and selling seats to members of the public, either directly or through a travel agent. This is the category where TUI, as you mentioned, falls into.

  • Affinity
    The main difference between this and single entity is that although passengers are associated with a business, group, or organization, everyone must still pay for their seats. Passengers may include sports fans travelling to the Super Bowl, or music fans traveling to a major concert (Coachella). Members of the general public are not able to purchase seats with this type of service.

  • Cargo - Other than passengers, Cargo needs to move from one place to another as well. So, are you in need of replacement parts as fast as possible? Moving precious and valuable cargo? The ase may be that your items aren’t authorized for commercial travel, or you’re conducting a humanitarian mission. Whether your cargo is dear, biodegradable, hazardous, or just in large quantities, cargo planes are available to transport anything from currency, antiques, and donated goods, to live animals, blood samples, and even human organs.


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