GAO: Controversy Still Surrounds Flight Expense Sharing

 - February 22, 2021, 11:19 AM

Expense sharing by private pilots remains controversial and what's permitted is still unclear, even though the FAA issued guidance on this subject a year ago, according to findings released late last week by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Last February, the FAA published Advisory Circular 61-142 explaining that “pilots may share operating expenses with passengers on a pro-rata basis when those expenses involve only fuel, oil, airport expenditures, or rental fees.” But private pilots who wish to share expenses may not “hold out” to the public or use the internet to offer transportation services, it added.

Nevertheless, after interviewing pilots, trade groups, and other stakeholders, the GAO found them split on the issue. For example, eight of 13 stakeholders said the FAA's 2020 guidance on expense-sharing is clear and provides sufficient information. However, some stakeholders said the guidance could provide more definitive examples of allowed expense-sharing flights, and others disagreed with how the FAA defined certain concepts such as how pilots can be compensated for flying passengers.

Also, seven of 15 stakeholders, including four representatives from companies with expense-sharing applications, said the FAA should allow pilots to use the internet to find these passengers. But eight stakeholders, including six of seven professional organizations, said the FAA should not. Organizations interviewed by the GAO include AIA, ALPA, AOPA, GAMA, NATA, NBAA, and Angel Flight West.