Three Tips to Eliminate a Flight Crew’s Most Common Mistakes on International Flights

It was English poet Alexander Pope who taught us that, “To err is human; to forgive, divine.” Would Mr. Pope have felt the same if he’d just stepped off a six-hour intercontinental flight to find that his customs paperwork wasn’t filled out correctly? Or if a quick turn fuel stop was extended by an hour because someone forgot to let ground handlers know about a change to the flight schedule?

You’re only human, and if yours is like most flight departments, you don’t have a large staff clamoring to take on the detail work. So, it falls to you. And, it’s the missed details that create the kind of avoidable aggravations that drive passengers (and you) nuts. Here are three tips to avoiding the “gotchas” that otherwise might be waiting to greet you next time you land overseas:

  1. Get Passionate About Paperwork—Flight crews are notorious for their deep hatred of paperwork. Be the exception to this rule and eliminate most of the mistakes that could follow you to your next destination. Whether it’s customs forms, passenger and crew biographical data, permit applications, or special circumstances paperwork (i.e.: the passenger who just can’t travel without Fido), ensure you have all the forms you need, fill them out completely, doublecheck them for accuracy, and feel the stress just melt away.
  2. Use Whatever Time You Get Wisely—If your trips aren’t planned months in advance then you have to become the ultimate time manager. Fight back against the urge to procrastinate until you have complete trip data. Providing 70 percent of the information now is better than scrambling to get 100 percent later. Whether it’s flight planning and slot reservations, permits, customs paperwork, ground support (including securing a fuel truck on time), key controlling authorities, or critical support personnel, everyone will be much more effective the sooner they’re notified. Though it may not seem like it at times, everyone supporting your next trip wants it to go as smoothly as you do. If you ask them, a vast majority would rather have more advanced notification than more detailed information. But remember, it’s still your job to go back and fill in the missing information (see point #1).
  3. Err on the Side of Over-Communication—One of the key benefits of corporate aviation is privacy. Flight operations personnel are trained to guard key information like their lives (or certainly their livelihoods) depended on it. But when it comes to the people who can and will impact your next trip, be an open book:
  • Overlooking the small details is what’s most likely to get you in trouble. By communicating everything you know, you give others chance to determine which details matter and which don’t. You also avoid the ‘Why didn’t you tell me?/You never asked!’ debacle.
  • To get optimal support, you have to give others what they need to excel. That starts with complete information as they define it, not you. Since you don’t know all the details your support teams need, opt to give them more. The more they know, the more they can make you look like a hero.
  • This goes for passengers, too. Most don’t want to be delayed any more than you do. If they know what’s expected of them and why, most will gladly comply. Few things are more uncomfortable than scrambling to get a new clearance because a passenger thought the “wheels up” time was when they needed to leave a meeting for the airport. And, if plans have to change, an informed passenger understands the consequences.

You’re In Control

By now, this is probably starting to feel like a lecture from Dr. Phil. The point to all this is that there is nothing worse than ending a 3,000 mile trip with an avoidable hassle. Follow the three tips above, and you can take control of the minutia, eliminate worry and make your international trips some of your best.

As noted above, some flight departments don’t have the support staff to help anticipate and handle the myriad details of an international trip. However, many are utilizing the services of Jeppesen’s International Trip Planning Service (ITPS) as an extension of their flight department. ITPS is well versed in global regulations, paperwork requirements, and the ever-expanding APIS system. What’s more, they’re in constant contact with ground handling, customs, airspace management and other support personnel around the world everyday ensuring that trips just like yours go off without a hitch. Learn more about Jeppesen ITPS by clicking here or calling (800) 553-7750.

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