Notices & News

Use of WiFi on Business aircraft

8th July 2014

From feedback we have received recently, it would seem that some brokers and even Operators struggling to implement the authority and use of Internet on Business aircraft.  We have therefore drawn up a very general document which outlines WiFi background and usage and some suggestions that may assist you all in cutting out the “grey” areas.  Many of our established Operators already have procedures in place so use their experience on guidance as well.

Below is a copy of pdf document emailed to members.

BACA Wi-Fi

The following guidelines have been produced by BACA as information for our members. We strongly suggest that contracts are reviewed and changes be approved by members own lawyers before implementation.

Background:

The number of private jets equipped with Wi-Fi has significantly increased. Most new aircraft have Wi-Fi as standard and older aircraft are being retrofitted to meet customer connectivity demands. The shift in Wi-Fi enabled aircraft in the States is particularly rapid and Europe is expected to follow.

It is vital that brokers keep on top of technological and other service developments and that any potential hidden costs of a charter are considered and dealt with in advance. Hidden costs can cause friction in your relationships with operators and customers, and can very quickly erode margin on charter deals if ultimate borne by the broker.

Functionality:
On-board Wi-Fi has the same functionality as using a home or public wireless router. Wi-Fi can be either open or password protected. Connectivity speeds are variable depending on the system used. Note that most telephone calls made on mobile devices are not routed through Wi-Fi. It is therefore
important that brokers and customers understand the difference and that different usage rules and charges might apply whether the aircraft is on the ground or airborne in or over different countries.

Technical:
Aircraft connectivity with the internet is either through satellites or ground based transmitters. This isimportant to understand as satellite user costs can be significantly more expensive.

Contracts:
Aircraft Operators: Whilst many aircraft now have Wi-Fi, it is surprising that many contracts do not mention the costs or procedures for use. Some aircraft operators include Wi-Fi costs in the charter, others will charge for usage.

Broker contracts: It is vital that Air Charter Brokers update their contracts to reflect the aircraft operator’s contract and limit any liability that could result from the provision of the service. Bear in mind that different countries have different laws and rules on internet usage in general and the
use of mobile devices on aircraft in particular.

Costs:
Hourly rates of up to $10,000 have been charged for high usage of in-flight Wi-Fi.

BACA Recommendations:

1. Determine the procedures with the Operator and cost of its use.
2. Agree a policy with the Operator if the customer requests Wi-Fi to be enabled, either prior to the flight or after boarding the aircraft.
3. Update your charter contracts to ensure they match the operator’s terms of use and include provisions dealing with:
(a) your charging policy for Wi-Fi, noting that third party charges might also be incurred;
(b) terms and conditions of access:
(c) duration of the service;
(d) confidentiality and security;
(e) unavailability, suspension or failure of service;
(f) acceptable use, including a provision that requires compliance with any local laws or rules;
(g) data protection; and
(h) limitations of liability.
4. Ask clients in advance if they would like Wi-Fi use on their charter.
5. Inform the operator if client has approved Wi-Fi use. Client may have decided against using and paying for it, but could find it enabled on the flight.
6. Advise the client in writing of the conditions of its use.
7. If agreement with the customer was not previously obtained it is recommended that the client signs an agreement and/or gives credit card details as a guarantee.
8. Passengers should be advised of the turning-on and turning-off times for Wi-Fi for their use. The crew might have use of it for downloading their own paperwork before or during the flight.
9. Update the client as soon as possible after the flight of the amount of data they used and the fee incurred.

This information document has been prepared in co-operation with:

Stevens & Bolton LLP, Wey House, Farnham Road, Guildford, Surrey GU1 4YD
Tel +44 (0)1483 302264 Fax +44 (0)1483 302254 DX 2423 Guildford 1 www.stevens-bolton.com
Contact: Tom.Lingard@stevens-bolton.com

Stevens & Bolton LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England (registered number OC306955) and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. A list of members’ names is available at the above address. Partner denotes a member of the limited liability partnership.

If you would like a standard clause inserted in your charter contract, Stevens & Bolton would be more than happy to assist, at discounted cost to BACA members.