Defining Common Carriers: Flight Sharing, the Faa, and the Future of Aviation
20 Pages Posted: 12 Jul 2018
Date Written: 06/12/2017
In January 2017, the Supreme Court of the United States declined to hear a case brought by Flytenow, a flight-sharing startup, against the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). While Flytenows legal challenge ended when the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, on policy grounds the company continues to have the better argument. Ultimately, the flight-sharing industry was shut down because the FAA can define common carriage expansively in its guidance and interpret that definition without oversight. Congress should intervene by explicitly defining common carriage narrowly in statute. This paper discusses private pilots traditional right to share costs and why such cost-sharing matters for general aviation. Next, the paper shows that Flytenow tried to comply with this traditional framework and previous interpretations of aviation law, and it discusses the companys legal travails. There is a possible remedy: Congress could unwind the FAAs confused flight-sharing rulings by simply defining common carrier more narrowly in statute. The FAAs current definition undermines the purpose of common carriage as conceived under the common law. This paper proposes some elements that Congress should consider as it formulates an appropriate definition. Finally, the paper addresses some objections.
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