Federal Aviation Bill Would Require Flight-Sharing Guidance


As the sharing economy keeps growing, people are increasingly sharing rides, homes, meals and more through digital platforms. But sharing flights?

The concept of flight-sharing actually got shut down shortly after it began. Flight-sharing platform Flytenow Inc. had unsuccessfully fought a legal interpretation from the Federal Aviation Administration that its private pilots needed commercial licenses to operate.        

But now, a House bill to reauthorize FAA programs would require the agency to issue guidance on how pilots can legally share flights.

A provision in the FAA reauthorization bill (H.R. 2997) for fiscal 2018, which begins Oct. 1, would require the agency to describe, among other things, the methods of communication used by pilots and passengers to share flight expenses. It would also require the comptroller general to submit a report analyzing federal flight-sharing policy.

Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) introduced the language as an amendment when the bill was before the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Scott Jeffrey, spokeswoman for Sanford, told Bloomberg BNA. Committee members didn’t express concerns or opposition to the provision, which was added to the base text of the bill, Jeffrey said. The committee approved the bill June 27.

Flight-sharing through digital platforms such as Flytenow would have allowed private pilots to connect with other members online and offer them passage on a route in exchange for sharing the flight’s costs.

Even if Sanford’s amendment makes it into the final version of the FAA reauthorization bill that becomes law, it’s unclear at best if Flytenow would be able to restart operations.  Flytenow shut down after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit declined in December 2015 to review the FAA’s interpretation, according to a company blog post. The U.S. Supreme Court in January denied Flytenow’s request to review the appeals court’s decision.