Flight cost sharing : French aviation is finally providing protection against the hazards of the sharing economy.
On December 7, 2015, The Court of Appeal of Paris fined UBER France €150,000 for « misleading commercial practices » regarding UberPop, the company’s commercial taxi passenger transport service, by misrepresenting itself as a carpooling service provider.
A parallel should be drawn between this case and France’s 2015 emergence of websites offering flight-sharing services (coavionnage). The Union Syndicale du Personnel Navigant Technique (USPNT), a coalition of pilot unions, has mobilized to stop these sites in an effort to prevent the bad practices often implemented by these web-based platforms.
France is one of the first countries where flight-sharing services have emerged, as it was the first market outside the United States to see the opening of the Uber Pop service.
In August 2015, USPNT sent a letter and work document to Ségolène Royal, minister of ecology, sustainable development and energy, calling on the government to clarify their position regarding these practices.
On September 15, 2015, the DGAC (Direction Générale de l’Aviation Civile, the French Civil Aviation Authority) published a press release to reaffirm the principle that non-commercial pilots cannot provide private transport to an unknown person as passenger. USPNT, which then presented the risks and problems related to « flight sharing » obtained to join, with other social partners, the working group tasked by the DGAC with « flight sharing » websites owners.
On December 3, 2015, the DGAC issued its final positions:
1) a recreational pilot cannot offer flight services to members of the general public and cannot transport people he does not know.;
2) flight-cost sharing, as intended by law, is exclusively to allow sharing of costs between a pilot and his immediate circle of friends and acquaintances
3) websites allowing pilots to publicly offer flight services must have an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) and the pilots of the flights must have a Commercial Pilot License (CPL).
DGAC’s above stated positions are fully in line with the positions held by the USPNT.
This is not only a victory to maintain the safety level in public air transport in France,it is also a victory for the recognition of the need for properly-qualified professionals to ensure the safe transport of passengers.
USPNT has suggested to the promoters of such flight-sharing websites to use the existing regulatory framework rather than to work to bypass it. The DGAC stated it was ready to assist them in filing for an appropriate AOC.
Work on this issue is not over yet: the internet has no borders, thus the USPNT has alerted the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) of the need to clarify imperfect regulations. There is no doubt the European agency whose motto is « Your safety is our mission, » will clarify the texts in the same way as the DGAC, the British Civil Aviation Authority and the American Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have.
The USPNT works to promote and maintain a safe and reliable air transport industry for its workers and its passengers. These objectives are incompatible with the aggressive deregulation of the transport industry, air transport in particular, using all means to make profits on the backs of workers and of precarious safety practices. Aviation, including commercial aviation, shall be subject to international action to harmonize its social standards, technical standards and practices to guarantee a level-playing field as presented by the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) through its campaign « European Fair Transport« .
Human life must be protected, entrusted to professionals and should not be jeopardized by a singular vision of profit.