by Donna Martinez
Former Senior Writer and Editor, John Locke Foundation
If you’ve ever wasted time in an airport waiting to board a delayed flight, you may have day-dreamed about being able to bypass the hassle and wait times and board a private jet. That day could be coming if Sen. Mike Lee’s federal legislation gets an airing. Sen. Lee is seeking to open up private flights to the modern sharing economy and to shield this ride-sharing-in-the-sky from regulations tied to commercial aviation. There are limits, as Reason.com reports, but it’s a start.
“A personal operator or a flight operated by a personal operator does not constitute a common carrier,” reads part of the Aviation Empowerment Act, a bill introduced today by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah). The legislation maintains the current prohibition on private pilots making a profit off flights offered via flight-sharing apps, but it would otherwise allow for the creation of digital billboards advertising trips.
“Innovation is key to competition and accessibility,” Lee told Reason. “Studies and experience with cost-sharing services have proven to be safe and effective in other countries, and it is past time we enact them in our country as well.”
Allowing flight-sharing is a win-win for aviation enthusiasts, whether they are pilots or just enjoy flying. And the small number of private planes and pilots, along with those rules against letting noncommercial pilots earn a profit for their services, means that flight-sharing is unlikely to disrupt commercial airlines in the same way that Uber disrupted the taxi industry. Almost everyone has a car; very few people own private aircraft.
Imagine being able to book a flight on a private airplane via an Uber-like app. Game-changer? Maybe not…at least not yet. But one thing’s for sure. The sharing economy lets the consumer/buyer win. Why? Because it’s about market forces using technology to connect demand with supply. Love it.