The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday declined to hear Flytenow’s appeal of an FAA legal interpretation that effectively shut down its website, which connected pilots with potential passengers who would share expenses on pre-planned Part 91 flights. The FAA had determined that pilots who solicit passengers using the website are “common carriers” and subject to commercial transportation requirements.
“The Supreme Court missed an opportunity today to correct an error made by the FAA and lower courts,” said Jon Riches, the director of national litigation and general counsel for the Goldwater Institute and the attorney representing Flytenow. Besides arguing that Flytenow was legal under flight cost-sharing provisions in FAR 61.113(c), Riches also framed it as a First Amendment issue.
NATA, which has opposed flight-sharing sites such as Flytenow, said it was not surprised by the decision. “The Supreme Court did not grant cert in this matter because it is neither a novel question of law nor are there any disputes between the lower courts as to the FAA’s interpretation of the Flytenow model,” said NATA president Martin Hiller. “The Flytenow application is nothing more than old wine in a new bottle.”
However, the issue might not yet be fully settled. Rep. Mark Sanford (R-South Carolina) has sponsored legislation that would authorize internet-facilitated flight-cost-sharing.