Campaign targets illegal charters on anniversary of footballer’s death

A global campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of illegal charter flights is launched on Friday January 21 to coincide with the third anniversary of the death of Premier League footballer Emiliano Sala.

Cardiff City player Sala and his pilot David Ibbotson died on January 21, 2019 when an illegally chartered plane crashed in the English Channel. David Henderson, who organized the theft, was jailed for 18 months in November 2021 for endangering the safety of a plane. Read BTN Europe’s analysis of what the tragedy and ensuing lawsuit means for travel buyers.

The new Fly Legal Day global social media campaign is led by the Air Charter Association (ACA) and is particularly aimed at people who book travel and travelers who may not be aware of the “dangers” associated with booking an illegal charter flight.

Glenn Hogben, Managing Director of ACA, said, “Illegal chartering remains a perennial problem in our industry, and Sala’s anniversary highlights the tragic consequences of this illicit activity that we are determined to minimize.

“In memory of Sala, we are launching our Fly Legal Day and asking all of our members and industry colleagues around the world to come together to spread the word and shine a light on this illegal practice, in hopes of ‘prevent any future tragedy.’

An illegal charter is defined as an “unlicensed aircraft charter operation” where the operator does not have an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC), also known as an Air Operator’s Certificate in the United States. United. These operators are not legally allowed to accept payment from air passengers on their planes.

“We want to make travel bookers and travelers understand how they can travel legally,” Hogben added.

“Our industry knows about this practice and knows how to monitor it. But many travelers are unaware of this – we want to get the message across to people making reservations and those traveling on flights.

Hogben said the charter industry had seen a “significant increase” in the number of flights booked for business travel over the past two years, due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“There’s the increased safety and security of flying in a known group of travellers, but that’s also because of a lack of scheduled services,” he explained. “Flying directly on a charter can save you time and money.”

Hogben identified five “key points” the business travel industry needs to be aware of to ensure that all booked charter flights will operate legally:

  • Use an Accredited ACA Member
  • Use an accredited charter flight broker
  • Those booking a charter directly should ask to see a copy of the operator’s license
  • Ask about a pilot’s qualifications to ensure they are qualified to fly the type of aircraft being chartered
  • “Trust your instincts and do your due diligence” – if the price of a charter flight seems “too good to be true” then more questions will need to be asked

Hogben said the main objective of the Fly Legal Day campaign was to maintain a high level of awareness on the issue of illegal charters.

“The Sala trial has raised global awareness of this practice, but it is important that the message not get lost in the future,” he added.

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