Protection of customers' payments.
(a) Except as provided in paragraph (c) of this section, no certificated air carrier or foreign air carrier shall perform any charter trip (other than a cargo charter trip) originating in the United States or any Overseas Military Personnel Charter trip, as defined in part 372 of this chapter, nor shall such carrier accept any advance payment in connection with any such charter trip, unless there is on file with the Department a copy of a currently effective agreement made between said carrier and a designated bank, by the terms of which all sums payable in advance to the carrier by charterers, in connection with any such trip to be performed by said carrier, shall be deposited with and maintained by the bank, as escrow holder, the agreement to be subject to the following conditions:
(1) The charterer (or its agent) shall pay the carrier either by check or money order made payable to the depository bank. Such check or money order and any cash received by the carrier from a charterer (or its agent) shall be deposited in, or mailed to, the bank no later than the close of the business day following the receipt of the check or money order or the cash, along with a statement showing the name and address of the charterer (or its agent); provided, however, that where the charter transportation to be performed by a carrier is sold through a travel agent, the agent may be authorized by the carrier to deduct its commission and remit the balance of the advance payment to the carrier either by check or money order made payable to the designated bank.
(2) The bank shall pay over to the carrier escrowed funds with respect to a specific charter only after the carrier has certified in writing to the bank that such charter has been completed; provided, however, that the bank may be required by the terms of the agreement to pay over to the carrier a specified portion of such escrowed funds, as payment for the performance of the outbound segment of a round-trip charter upon the carrier's written certification that such segment has been so completed.
(3) Refunds to a charterer from sums in the escrow account shall be paid directly to such charterer its assigns. Upon written certification from the carrier that a charter has been canceled, the bank shall turn over directly to the charterer or its assigns all escrowed sums (less any cancellation penalties as provided in the charter contract) which the bank holds with respect to such canceled charter, provided however, that in the case of a split charter escrowed funds shall be turned over to a charterer or its assigns only if the carrier's written certification of cancellation of such charter includes a specific representation that either the charter has been canceled by the carrier or, if the charter has been canceled by the charterer, that the carrier has accepted a substitute charterer.
(4) The bank shall maintain a separate accounting for each charter flight.
(5) As used in this section the term “bank” means a bank insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
(b) The escrow agreement required under paragraph (a) of this section shall not be effective until approved by the Department. Claims against the escrow may be made only with respect to the non-performance of air transportation.
(c) The carrier may elect, in lieu of furnishing an escrow agreement pursuant to paragraph (a) of this section, to furnish and file with the Department a surety bond with guarantees to the United States Government the performance of all charter trips (other than cargo charter trips) originating in the United States and of all overseas military personnel charter trips, as defined in part 372 of this chapter, to be performed, in whole or in part, by such carrier pursuant to any contracts entered into by such carrier. The amount of such bond shall be unlimited. 1 Claims under the bond may be made only with respect to the non-performance of air transportation.
1 While the face amount of the bond is unlimited, claims are limited to amounts that are paid to carrier for U.S.-originating passenger charter flights that carrier fails to perform or to refund.
(d) The bond permitted by this section shall be in the form set forth as the appendix to this part. Such bond shall be issued by a bonding or surety company—
(1) Which is listed in Best's Insurance Reports (Fire and Casualty) with a general policyholders' rating of “A” or better or
(2) Which is listed in the U.S. Department of Treasury's notice listing companies holding Certificates of Authority as acceptable sureties on Federal bonds and as acceptable reinsuring companies, published in the Federal Register on or about July 1. The bonding or surety company shall be one legally authorized to issue bonds of that type in the State in which there is located the office or usual residence of the agency designated by the carrier under 49 U.S.C. 46103 to receive service of notices, process and other documents issued by or filed with the Department of Transportation. For the purposes of this section the term “State” includes any territory or possession of the United States, or the District of Columbia. If the bond does not comply with the requirements of this section, or for any reason fails to provide satisfactory or adequate protection for the public, the Department will notify the certificated or foreign air carrier by registered or certified mail, stating the deficiencies of the bond. Unless such deficiencies are corrected within the time limit set forth in the notification, no amounts payable in advance by customers for the subject charter trips shall be accepted by the carrier.
(e) The bond required by this section shall provide that unless the charterer files a claim with the carrier, or, if the carrier is unavailable, with the surety, within 60 days after cancellation of a charter trip with respect to which the charterer's advance payments are secured by the bond, the surety shall be released from all liability under the bond to such charterer for such charter trip. The contract between the carrier and the charterer shall contain notice of this provision.