Flytenow To Argue Ride-Share Case In Court

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Flytenow, which sued the FAA after being forced to shut down its ride-sharing website, will be in federal court Friday morning to make oral arguments, lawyers for the business announced this week. Flytenow suspended operations in August 2014 when the FAA declared it illegal for private pilots to communicate on the Internet about sharing seats for flights unless they were certificated as commercial operators. Flytenow is represented by the Goldwater Institute, a nonprofit group that promotes free-market economics. Jon Riches, the lead lawyer in the case, told AVweb that Flytenow makes the case that the pilots’ Internet communications to share open seats on their airplanes don't meet the definition of “holding out” to the public for flights, nor do pilots earn “compensation” for their flights. “Even before you get to ‘holding out,’ that presumes that expense-sharing pilots are commercial operators,” he said. “There’s no conceivable way to earn a profit.”

On Friday, lawyers for each side will have 15 minutes to make an argument, after which they will answer the court’s questions. The next step will be to await the court’s opinion, which could take months, Riches said. The opinion will be binding and the case could end there, although either party can request the U.S. Supreme Court to look at the case, he said. Flytenow.com isn't posting any flights on its website, but has posted updates on its case. The company has argued on the site that such flights – allowed under the FAA’s pro rata cost-share rule – have been posted for years on bulletin boards, discussed via phone and other means, and so the Internet is just another way to do this. “This cost-sharing arrangement with private pilots and passengers has been allowed by the FAA since the 1960s,” the company states. “Flytenow simplified the process by allowing pilots to post a planned trip on a website to find people interested in sharing costs.” The FAA's 2014 interpretation was a response to AirPooler's request to interpret the regulations.