The FAA this week asked the U.S. Supreme Court to deny Flytenow’s request to review a case it filed against the agency over its flight-sharing website. Backed by the Goldwater Institute, Flytenow has asked for the Supreme Court to review its case to overturn an FAA legal interpretation that shut down the website. The Flytenow website was designed to connect pilots with potential passengers who would share expenses on pre-planned flights. It was shuttered after the FAA determined that pilots who solicit passengers using the Fsite are “common carriers” and subject to commercial transportation requirements.
Flytenow filed a lawsuit, disputing the application of commercial requirements to flight-sharing arrangements and arguing the website provided a means to communicate, similar to how pilots would via an airport bulletin board. But the U.S. Appeals Court late last year sided with the FAA’s legal interpretations.
Flytenow asked the court to determine whether the FAA “drastic[ally] departed[ed] from the common law definition of ‘common carrier,’” but the FAA this week said the appeals court “correctly rejected” Flytenow’s claims. The FAA asked the court to deny that request both on procedural grounds and also because the “there is no disagreement” in the lower courts on the appropriateness of the agency’s definition. The FAA further disputed Flytenow’s argument that a pilot is not involved in commercial activity unless he stands to profit, saying other court cases have not backed this contention.
Goldwater attorneys Jonathan Riches and Thomas Gross reiterated their case this week in a Wall Street Journal editorial, saying, “Cost-sharing isn’t a new thing. For over 50 years the FAA has allowed pilots and passengers to communicate about cost-sharing via email and phone as well as by posting notices on airport bulletin boards.”
They restated that the agency is ignoring a key difference between commercial and general aviation: “Commercial pilots provide services to the public for profit; Flytenow pilots merely share expenses.”
NATA, however, also disputes the Flytenow contention. “Flytenow's attorneys continue to try and use smoke and mirrors in an attempt to convince people it is now acceptable to allow the general public to ‘ride share’ with private pilots with potentially little flight time or training for challenging weather conditions,” said NATA president Marty Hiller. “Rather than admit that for safety reasons our laws prohibit air transportation by unlicensed operators, their lawyers argue the FAA is anti-technology and is banning pilots from using the Internet.”
Hiller added that the association “will continue to educate lawmakers on how Flytenow is simply selling old wine in a new bottle to ultimately undermine the safety of the flying public.”