Wingly at risk due to new flight-sharing proposals

Flight-sharing platform Wingly is under threat of closure in the UK following the announcement of new proposed regulation on cost-sharing flights. Wingly connects pilots with people who are willing to share flight operating costs, and in many cases increasing access to private aviation.  

The proposed amendment would restrict pilots to only flying when they were already scheduled to fly, meaning it will become illegal for private pilots to publish flights they regularly enjoy and indicate their availability to fly with passengers who are interested in joining them and sharing the costs. As a result, Wingly’s services, which have been available in the UK for the past eight years and used by 8,500 private pilots, will become obsolete.

The CAA’s proposals have been brought in to tackle illegal charter flights (known as ‘grey charter’) in the aftermath of the illegal charter flight that led to the death of footballer Emiliano Sala.

While Wingly says that the CAA’s intentions- behind their proposals are commendable, they will most likely inadvertently render illegal what they say are harmless private flights, such as those coordinated by Wingly.

Commenting on the proposals, Martin Robinson, CEO of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA UK), said: “Platforms such as Wingly offer positive benefits for GA and we know that many people have benefitted,” adding that under the new proposals “The CAA would need to ban cost-sharing platforms like Wingly, but they are not in breach of the rules.” Robinson emphasises that “AOPA has never supported illegal public transport flights and the tragic event involving the footballer (Sala) was an illegal public transport flight in a foreign registered aircraft. The organiser of the flight was found guilty and was given a custodial sentence following a successful investigation and prosecution by the CAA.”

A Wingly spokesperson said: “The Civil Aviation Authority acknowledges the significant safety advantages associated with cost-sharing platforms and is actively engaging in discussions with Wingly and the AOPA to reach an agreeable solution. They are therefore still working on their amendments and recently stated on their website that ‘cost sharing platforms, are ahead of the curve on many of these measures, which are enforced via their terms of use.’ It is also important to note that Wingly remains completely legal as no regulation has been implemented yet. The CAA emphasised this last point by writing that, ‘pilots may continue to fly using online platforms as they previously have been.’ Wingly remains vigilant and continues to advocate for pilots’ rights as the final proposals have not been published yet. The DfT is meant to be producing a Statutory Instrument by November 2023.”

The company recently set-up a petition to ask UK Government to reconsider the proposed regulatory changes. Requiring at least 10,000 signatures before Government will be required to respond to the petition, at the time of writing it had amassed over 1,100 signatures.

Image accredited to Wingly media library

Author: FTN Editor

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