Organizations utilize aircraft owned by third-parties for a variety of business-related purposes - from chartering flights for executives to commissioning fly-overs for research. However, when accidents occur involving these aircraft, businesses could unknowingly be at risk for the resulting injuries or property damage.
Most commercial general liability policies exclude claims related to the use or operation of aircraft. What’s more, businesses may still be considered at fault, regardless of whether or not they own the aircraft involved in a claim.
To protect themselves and to fill any gaps in coverages, businesses can turn to non-owned aircraft liability insurance.
Non-owned aircraft liability insurance provides coverage to businesses in the event that they become liable for claims related to third-party injuries and property damage resulting from the use of aircraft not owned by the business itself.
This type of coverage is particularly useful for a business that does the following:
Utilizes a charter aircraft to transport senior executives. Many companies charter flights through third-parties to shuttle their leaders to and from important meetings. However, in the event of an accident, claimants may target a business for damages, regardless of whether or not they own the aircraft or employ the pilot.
Allows its employees to charter flights during normal business activities. This exposure is similar to the one above. However, in some cases, companies may not be aware that their employees are chartering flights during off-site business activities until it’s too late—which could further complicate the claims process.
Utilizes aircraft for research or other business-related activities. Common activities include utilizing aircraft for the exploration of resources, aerial photography and aerial advertising. In cases like these, even if an employee is not on board during an incident that initiated a claim, companies could still be exposed to potential losses.
Has an employee with a pilot licence. These employees may fly aircraft during normal business activities. When this happens, there’s a potential for an incident to occur in which the employer would be at fault.
Like most policies, there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to non-owned aircraft liability insurance. That said, there are a number of policy details to consider when weighing your options:
Limits of liability. In most cases, policy limits range from $5 to $100 million.
Aircraft restrictions. Certain aircraft may be restricted from coverage, typically based on its seating capacity. The general rule is that the lower the seating capacity, the lower the premium.
Aircraft damages. Standard non-owned aircraft liability insurance typically excludes coverage for any damage to the aircraft.
Standard non-owned aircraft liability policies typically exclude acts of war, terrorism or hijacking. Businesses concerned about this exposure would have to seek out other policies to address any gaps in coverage.
In addition to purchasing non-owned aircraft liability insurance, there are a number of strategies businesses can utilize to limit their exposures—allowing organizations to prevent claims before they occur. Above all, it’s important for businesses to communicate their policies regarding chartered flights and the use of non-owned aircraft to employees and leadership.
The following are three other important considerations:
1. Log any aircraft usage within your business. This will ensure that you are aware of all potential exposures.
2. Examine the qualifications of employee pilots thoroughly, if applicable. Take care to assess the number of hours they have logged in the air and what types of aircraft they are comfortable utilizing.
3. Businesses should always request a certificate of insurance from the aircraft operators they employ. Certificates of insurance should include a cross-liability clause, a waiver of subrogation and sufficient levels of liability coverage to reduce potential exposures.