Sharing is great. You can share your ice cream with a loved one. You can share a taxicab with a stranger. You can even share your Internet connection (with everyone if you’re not careful). But if you want to ride-share an airplane with your fellowman, then I’m afraid you’re grounded.
According to an FAA ruling that was just released, there is a prohibition on private pilots publicly offering seats on their planes in exchange for gas money. This unfortunately includes start-ups such as AirPooler and Flytenow.
This decision comes in response to start-up AirPooler formally requesting a clarification of the law. The FAA stated that banning plane sharing could keep people safe by preventing them from flying with rookie pilots. The other side of the coin, however, will also make it more expensive for pilots to fly, because now they can’t share costs. The decision will also reduce travel options for passengers. Not to mention the untimely death of plane sharing start-ups. All in all this looks like bad news for everyone.
AirPooler is planning to ask for a clarification of the ruling, as it’s based on an unofficial draft for a 1963 proposal for plane sharing. There is a 1964 regulation that states pilots can privately ask passengers if they want to join them and split costs, if the pilots paid their pro-rata share and were already planning the flight etc.
The practice of plane sharing was often organized through word of mouth but that will now be illegal. The new FAA ruling deems any kind of cost-sharing as compensation for the private pilots, by whatever means they use to list their seats.
The current law is that it is illegal to compensate private pilots, unless they have a government certificate to operate as an air carrier. Lots of private pilots do not hold this license so listing open seats on websites such as AirPooler and Flytenow won’t be permitted.
The FAA states “We conclude that, with regard to pilots using the AirPooler website, all four elements of common carriage are present. By posting specific flights to the AirPooler website, a pilot participating in the AirPooler service would be holding out to transport persons or property from place to place for compensation or hire. Although the pilots participating in the AirPooler website have chosen the destination, they are holding out to the public to transport passengers for compensation in the form of a reduction of the operating expenses, they would have paid for the flight.”
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[Image via picjumbo]