An Uber-style business that connects private pilots with travelers willing to split fuel costs and other expenses was shot down by a Washington, D.C., court.
The judges on Friday declined Flytenow Inc.’s request to review a Federal Aviation Administration ruling that pilots who use the service to find passengers must have commercial licenses.
Flytenow.com connects members who share expenses in exchange for flights on a route predetermined by the pilot. AirPooler Inc. offers a similar service that was also blocked by the FAA’s rules, which rejected the idea that cost-sharing is different from a commercial aviation operation.
The company asked the court to consider whether the FAA was permitted to conclude that private pilots using its service violated their non-commercial licenses by representing themselves as common carriers for compensation. The court said yes.
The FAA is justified in making a distinction between pilots offering expense-sharing services to a limited group and those offering the same services to a wide audience, the court said. There’s a risk that unsuspecting passengers “will contract with pilots who in fact lack the experience and credentials of commercial pilots,” the court said in its ruling.
While private pilots must adhere to FAA safety regulations, they receive significantly less scrutiny.
“Regulators have good reasons to distinguish between pilots who are licensed to offer services to the public and those who are not, as other courts have recognized,” a three-judge panel ruled.
The case is Flytenow Inc. v. Federal Aviation Administration, 14-1168, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (Washington).
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