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Embracing Aviation Innovation

Flytenow v. FAA

Case Status

Date Filed

January 6, 2015

Last Step

U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Flytenow’s case.

Next Step

Case closed.

Case Overview

Innovative technologies that connect service providers directly to consumers are changing the way people live, work, and travel.  From Uber and Lyft in the transportation industry to Airbnb in the hospitality industry, people are using the power of technology to connect with one another and trade goods and services in a way that has historically been neither feasible nor cost effective.  In the process, consumers are getting access to desired products and services at a lower cost and pioneering businesses and service providers are reaching markets they would not otherwise have reached.  Unfortunately, at the same time, government regulators are using antiquated or incongruent rules – often at the behest of large, incumbent industries that fear competition – to shut down new, innovative businesses.

Flytenow, Inc. is one of those innovative businesses.  For general aviation enthusiasts and travelers looking for an affordable and novel mode of transportation, a pioneering start-up, Flytenow, is connecting private pilots and passengers wishing to share travel plans and trip expenses.  Regrettably, the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) is attempting to ground the service before it takes off.

Flytenow’s business model is based on a common and long-standing practice among private pilots – sharing expenses with their passengers to make flights on small aircraft more accessible and cost-effective.  Expense-sharing for the cost of flights has been common since the earliest days of aviation, and has been expressly approved by the FAA.  Specifically, under long-standing FAA rules, private pilots and passengers may each pay an equal share of gasoline costs, fees, and other expenses so long as they are traveling to the same location for independent purposes.  In a remarkable 180 degree turn, however, the FAA has told Flytenow and its members that private pilots and passengers can no longer share expenses if they communicate with one another using Flytenow’s exclusive website.

In a legal memorandum written to Flytenow (“Legal Interpretation”), the FAA has declared that expense sharing is no longer permissible for private pilots if those pilots utilize the company’s Internet-based communications platform.  This order directly contradicts decades of common practice, the FAA’s own rules, and violates the constitutional rights of private pilots and passengers wishing to use the Internet to communicate with one another.

Represented by both aviation counsel and attorneys from the Goldwater Institute, Flytenow is challenging the FAA’s order in court.  This case will not only seek to allow Flytenow to continue its innovative operations, but will also serve as a bellwether for consumers and service providers wishing only to connect with one another free of regulatory interference.

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