A year after the launch of Blackbird flight sharing services, the FAA issued a warning letter. The FAA position is that pilots being paid to fly passengers must be employees of a company certified to provide this service, or be certified themselves. Most casual pilots do not meet this qualification. While it’s ok for pilots to fly their friends around for free, they can not request payment from passengers.
Blackbird is trying to fly in the grey area where private pilots ask their friends to chip in for the cost of gas. But pilots on the Blackbird app are clearly getting paid for their services, just like Uber drivers. Travelers pick the date and time they want to travel, and can even select the type of aircraft. These are not airplane carpools where the pilot was already taking this trip.
Flight sharing services, essentially Uber for airplane travel, has come under attack from the FAA for years. A now-defunct company, FlyteNow, lost their court challenge. But a few years ago there were some signs that congress might take up the cause. Baring legislation legalizing this practice I expect to see Blackbird fold in the near future, just like their predecessors.
If you want to experience a private flight through a flight sharing app, several businesses are operating in Europe and Canada without apparent legal issues. You can check out my spreadsheet to see the companies offering flight sharing (category = flight).