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Aircraft: Going Once, Going Twice, Takeoff

Fluto Shinzawa

For the past 10 years, Jeff Wampler has been chartering planes and flying out of Willard Airport in Champaign, Ill. Whenever Wampler, president of the Sterling Management real estate development company, wanted to find a flight, he would call three local charter companies and inquire about the availability of a plane.

Earlier this year, he decided to try something new. While planning a vacation to Colorado with his wife and three children, he clicked on CharterAuction.com, an online charter flight provider, after hearing about the service from an acquaintance. He sent CharterAuction.com his proposed itinerary, and three and a half hours later, he received an offer from a charter company to fly him to Colorado and back in a Cessna Citation CJ2. “It was a nice plane, and I was very impressed with the trip,” Wampler says. “They came back with a price that was really competitive—a lower price than I was used to by at least 10 or 15 percent.”

The drawback to Wampler’s previous method of chartering is that a local charter company can have a small fleet and might not have a plane available to match a client’s itinerary. Conversely, CharterAuction.com works with 650 national charter operators, and once the company receives your itinerary via e-mail, phone, or fax, it forwards the proposed flight plan to its network. Charter companies with planes available to accommodate the flight offer their bids to CharterAuction.com, which allows you to view the bids and select the operator that best suits your needs. Bids can be supplied as quickly as half an hour after you submit your itinerary. CharterAuction.com can also supply plane pictures, pilot résumés, and charter operator safety records.

Nate McKelvey, president and CEO of CharterAuction.com, says the advantage of using his company’s services is that a traveler has more options at reduced costs. “Say someone is flying from Alaska to Florida and isn’t flying back for five days,” McKelvey explains. “That Alaskan charter operator is sitting on the ground and not making any money. In the meantime, if you want to fly from Florida to San Diego, you can hire that Alaskan operator instead of calling every local Florida or San Diego charter operator. The cost will be cheaper for you because the Alaskan operator is now flying instead of being parked on the ground for five days.”

CharterAuction.com recently launched its Share-a-Jet program, which allows you to search for charter flights with vacant seats. If you are planning to fly from Los Angeles to San Francisco, for example, you can use the program to see if another flier has already chartered a similar flight and if there are seats available on that plane. Also, if you have chartered a plane and have space on the flight, you can post your itinerary on the site and enable other fliers to post bids on the remaining seats.

Wampler, who also used CharterAuction.com to fly a business associate to Houston, says he plans to continue using the service. “I’ll use them as long as their safety and price are better than what I can get anywhere else.”

CharterAuction.com, 617.471.5531 or 800.370.7719, www.charterauction.com

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