Uber for planes? Forget it—at least in the USA.
an FAA ruling released today … prohibits private pilots from publicly offering seats on their planes in exchange for gas money, including via startups like AirPooler and Flytenow.
As long as this long-used practice was discreetly done, it was ok, but now that startups are looking to organize—and cash in—the trend, the FAA was forced to look into it.
Basically, private pilots may not act as commercial pilots (unless they have the proper license), the exception being if they only get compensated for the expense of the flight at pro-rata share per passenger.
The FAA language might be a bit convoluted (and AirPooler says it's based on the wrong regulation) but, let's be also honest here: the startup wants its share and that's a compensation above the pure flight expenses.
AirPooler will ask for clarification.
Interestingly, FAA's Chief Counsel during the Reagan administration had kinda sided with AirPooler earlier this month:
Innovation, which tests the existing regulatory constraints, tends to perplex both the operational FAA personnel and the agency’s lawyers.
Taking an historical perspective, she's foreseeing an explosion of the concept of planesharing and controversies to follow.
I believe those startups and pilots alike will now go back to the drawing board and make sure they comply with regulation—probably by going commercial and accepting the additional scrutiny that goes with it, the drug tests, the inspections, the maintenance logs and all.
And as this new way of flying increases, no doubt that the FAA's ruling will be then questioned and appealed.
You can read the full decision transcript below.