Defining Common Carriers: Flight Sharing, the Faa, and the Future of Aviation

20 Pages Posted: 12 Jul 2018

See all articles by Christopher Koopman

Christopher Koopman

Mercatus Center at George Mason University

Eli Dourado


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 Flytenow’s 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 company’s legal travails. There is a possible remedy: Congress could unwind the FAA’s confused flight-sharing rulings by simply defining common carrier more narrowly in statute. The FAA’s 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.

Suggested Citation

Koopman, Christopher and Dourado, Eli, Defining Common Carriers: Flight Sharing, the Faa, and the Future of Aviation (06/12/2017). MERCATUS WORKING PAPER. Available at SSRN: or

Christopher Koopman (Contact Author)

Mercatus Center at George Mason University ( email )

3434 Washington Blvd., 4th Floor
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

Eli Dourado


No Address Available

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