A recent FAA ruling has left Uber of air travel-hopeful AirPooler and other startups like it in a legal bind. The agency yesterday stated that private pilots who don't hold a special government-issued certificate are banned from publicly offering seats on their planes for a fee. The ruling is meant to keep consumers safe from flying with unseasoned pilots, but it also makes it more expensive for pilots to fly while also making it harder for planesharing companies to do business.
The ruling is meant to clarify a 1963 proposal that allows for pilots to privately ask passengers to split travel expenses like the cost of fuel. Up until now, pilots could seek out passengers for trips, and companies like AirPooler and Flytenow have started to step in to create a new avenue for interested travelers. The argument was that the deal constituted a "joint venture with a common purpose." However, the ruling views such agreements as compensatory in nature, meaning the pilots are working for hire. Now, unless a pilot obtains a license, using a service like AirPooler is illegal.
AirPooler hopes to have the ruling further clarified in its favor, but it's unclear when — if ever — the FAA will make any kind of reversal.