An air-travel ridesharing website that was shut down last year after a legal battle with the FAA is now taking its case to the nation’s highest court.
Flytenow, an online service that paired private pilots with passengers to share flights in exchange for flight expenses such as fuel and fees, has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear its case, arguing the FAA’s order to shut it down is “unconstitutionally vague and violates the free speech, equal protection and due process rights of Flytenow and its private pilot members.”
In December 2015, a Washington, D.C., appeals court ruled in favor of the FAA, which prohibits private pilots from advertising for shared flights in exchange for flight expenses.
FAA regulations allow passengers to pay a portion of flight expenses for fuel, oil, tiedown space or aircraft rental fees as long as the pilot and passengers have a “common purpose” for the trip. This type of arrangement, in which pilots and passengers often find each other through word-of-mouth or bulletin boards, has been allowed for decades. The difference with Flytenow and its online platform, the FAA says, is the website constitutes advertising, or “holding out” for air transportation services, in the agency’s parlance.
Flytenow, on its behalf, says it is simply applying a long-existing practice to the digital age.
If the Court hears the case, it will be its first involving a case rooted in the burgeoning sharing economy.