FAA Bans Planesharing in America, Illegalizes Airpooler and Flytenow

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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has stuck a blow to planesharing startups such as AirPooler and Flytenow with a recent ruling prohibiting private pilots from offering seats to the public in exchange for compensation.

Planesharing startup AirPooler, already operating in the market, recently formally requested a clarification from the FAA on the issue, which was considered a legal grey area.

“With regard to pilots using the AirPooler website,” ruled the FAA, “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.”

The customary practice of advertising for shared flights on message boards will also now be illegal. Only pilots certified by the US government as air carriers are permitted to receive compensation for flying, according to the FAA ruling. Most pilots do not have air carrier licences, which are relatively difficult to obtain.

The ruling will prevent pilots from cutting expenses by sharing costs, and will reduce travel options, but may prevent travelers from mistakenly booking flights with insufficiently qualified pilots.

AirPooler is not quite finished, however. AirPooler intends to ask for further clarification on the FAA ruling. The recent ruling was based on an unofficial draft for a 1963 proposal for planesharing, but a 1964 regulation allows pilots to privately ask potential passengers if they would share costs if the pilot have already planned the flight, pay a pro-rata share, and adhere to other restrictions.

By Sid Douglas