Cost sharing flights are flights shared by private individuals. The 'cost-shared' part is in reference to the costs of the specific flight which can be shared only between the pilot and others onboard the aircraft. These costs are the 'direct costs' which are the costs directly incurred in relation to a specific flight (e.g. fuel, airfield charges, rental fee for an aircraft). There can be no element of profit for the pilot as these flights are not commercial, and if profit is suspected then the flight might be operating outside of the regulations and therefore be illegal. The pilot must pay a contribution to these direct costs.
The safety and conduct of any flight including cost-shared flights it the responsibility of the pilot in command of the aircraft. The pilot must conduct the flight in accordance with the applicable regulation for non-commercial flights with light aircraft by private pilots. It is also the pilot’s responsibility to ensure the flight is appropriately insured, although passengers may want to check that any personal life, accident and/or health insurance they have is valid for non-commercial flights.
Passengers should be made aware that the pilot may amend or cancel the flight for any reason, including at short notice and that the proportion of the costs must be shared by the pilot. If the flight does not take place, then no remuneration (money or exchange of gifts) should be exchanged between the pilot and passengers.
Passengers are not taking part in a commercial flight but in a leisure flight with a private pilot. The pilot has a duty not to undertake flight if the conditions are not suitable.
Where cost shared flights are arranged through online platforms the CAA recommends the use of only websites that have signed up to the European Aviation Safety Agency “Charter to promote the safety of non-commercial General Aviation flight with light aircraft by flight sharing companies”. Platforms that have signed up to this charter support the provision of appropriate information to both pilots and passengers and helps to ensure that cost-shared flights are conducted within the scope of the regulation.
Commercial aviation in large passenger carrying aircraft has now achieved exceptional safety standards, a standard that would be unachievable by lighter sport, recreational and personal transport aircraft. The safety of non-commercial light aircraft is more comparable to other recreational activities than the much higher standard achieved in commercial aviation.
It is recommended that any promotion of cost-sharing, and conversations with pilots providing flights, should inform you as a potential passenger, of the safety levels of General Aviation flights with light aircraft as compared to those of commercial flying.
Is it legal?
European and national regulation states that pilots are allowed to share flights as long as the aircraft does not carry more than five passengers in addition to the pilot. Furthermore, costs can only be shared, pilots are not allowed to make any profit on the flight. Because cost shared flights remain private, the pilot does not need a commercial pilot’s licence to share the cost with passengers.
If you have concerns over the legality of any flight that have or are going to take place please refer to our webpage for reporting safety concerns.
Flying with strangers opens new potential issues ranging from security and personal safety to insurance implications. To help pilots understand the pros and cons of cost-sharing with strangers we have produced CAP1589, a short guide to the cost sharing regulations.
Ultimately, the clear intention of the cost-sharing rules is to allow pilots to fly more - building skills and experience - while sharing their passion for aviation with others. Providing passengers and pilots understand and stick to the rules, then that intention can become a reality.
European and National regulations permit cost sharing as follows:
- The flight is a cost-shared flight by private individuals. Cost sharing flights cannot form part of a business activity through an organisation.
- The direct costs of the flight must be shared between all of the occupants of the aircraft, including the pilot, up to a maximum of 6 persons.
- The cost-sharing arrangements apply to any other-than complex motor-powered Part 21 aircraft and this includes aircraft registered outside of the Part 21 area but operated by an operator established or residing in the Community.
- Cost-sharing is also permitted in non-Part 21 (Annex I of the Basic Regulation (EU) 2018/1139) aircraft registered in the UK.
Direct costs mean the costs directly incurred in relation to a flight (e.g. fuel, airfield charges, rental fee for an aircraft). There can be no element of profit.
Annual costs cannot be included in the cost sharing. These are the cost of keeping, maintaining, insuring and operating the aircraft over a period of one calendar year. There can be no element of profit.
CAA proposed Changes to Cost Sharing
In 2021, the CAA established an internal working group to review regulations related to cost sharing flights to ensure they remain fit for purpose. Having reviewed current regulations, the working group determined that there is currently considerable scope for misunderstanding and abuse as things stand - with a particular risk that cost sharing regulations can be used as cover for illegal public transport.
Our working group drew up a series of proposals for changing current regulations to improve protections in place for both pilots and passengers of cost sharing flights. Safeguarding passengers is a particular concern to us as consumer protection is an important duty of the CAA.
We want to strengthen current regulations in the following ways:
- We want to improve the definition of the direct costs which can be shared on flights to provide clarity for both pilot and passengers.
- We want to make it mandatory that all participants pay an equal share in the costs of a flight – including the pilot. However, the pilot can choose to pay more than their equal share if they wish.
- We want to regularise the existing limit on cost sharing flights to a maximum of six occupants.
- We want pilots/ operators to ensure passengers are fully aware that the risks associated with flying in GA aircraft are greater than taking a commercial flight through the signing and retention of a standardised declaration form.
- We want to ensure pilots retain control of flights, ensuring they are undertaking missions planned and directed by themselves rather than flights dictated by passenger requirements. We want to ensure advertising of flights properly reflects this dynamic.
- We want to remove age limits for cost sharing passengers.
Our approach to changing cost sharing regulations was consulted on in November 2021. Responses received indicated broad support for our direction of travel on cost sharing, and we have been proceeding with these changes on this basis.
We published a Comment Response Document: UK Cost Sharing Flights in December 2022, sharing the findings from the consultation.
It is worth noting that in the original consultation, the CAA proposed a requirement that pilots should have a ‘common purpose’ with their passengers when undertaking a cost sharing flight. This would have required pilots and passengers to have the same reason for going to a particular destination. However, this condition has been removed from our proposals following the feedback provided by the community during the consultation process.
It is important to emphasise that it is our ambition to update cost sharing regulations in the UK but for now nothing has changed. Pilots may continue to fly using online platforms as they previously have been.
Once proposals are finalised, the CAA will work with the Department for Transport to change regulations. This next step will be communicated to the cost sharing community as it progresses.
- In the case of a jointly-owned aircraft, the CAA considers the hourly rate, normally payable by a joint owner, for use of their aircraft to be a 'direct cost'.
- The above passenger guidance should be made available to any passengers on a cost-shared flight.
- Cost shared flights can be advertised, including the use of online 'flight sharing' platforms. Flight sharing platforms that have signed up to the EASA Charter may be a good way to support pilots to ensure their cost-shared flight stays within the scope of the regulation.
- It is recommended that any advertising or promotion of cost-sharing flights makes it clear that they are private arrangements and not conducted in accordance with commercial air transport or, where appropriate, public transport rules
- Passengers should be made aware that the pilot may amend or cancel the flight for any reason, including at short notice
- The proportion of the costs that must be shared by the pilot is not specified in the regulations. However, the pilot must make a contribution to the direct costs of the flight that he is conducting.
- The General Exemption (ORS4 No.1554) which permits cost-sharing flights for non-Part 21 aircraft only applies to flights conducted within the London and Scottish Information Regions.