The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is announcing plans to take two actions to address public charter flights, which have rapidly expanded in frequency and complexity in recent years. Some services appear to operate like scheduled airlines but under less-rigorous safety regulations – a fact that oftentimes is not transparent to the flying public. The FAA will explore new ways to integrate charter flights into the airspace in a manner that provides flexibility and safe options for all flyers. 

First, as previously announced in a request for comments, the FAA intends to initiate a rulemaking to amend Part 110 definitions of “scheduled,” “on demand,” and “supplemental” operations. If finalized, the effect of this proposed rule change would be that public charters will be subject to operating rules based on the same safety parameters as other non-public charter operations.   

“Part of the safety mission of the FAA is identifying risk early on, and that’s exactly what we’re doing on public charters as usage expands. If a company is effectively operating as a scheduled airline, the FAA needs to determine whether those operations should follow the same stringent rules as scheduled airlines,” said FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker. 

The FAA intends to issue the notice of proposed rulemaking expeditiously. As part of any proposed rule, FAA would seek comment on an effective date that would allow for industry to adapt to any change in the regulatory environment. FAA’s plans follow an initial request for comment on the issue in August 2023, in which the agency received and evaluated approximately 60,000 public comments. 

Additionally, because of the FAA's dedication to expanding air service to small and rural communities, the FAA will explore opportunities to align aircraft size and certification standards with operational needs for small community and rural air service. Specifically, the FAA will convene a Safety Risk Management Panel (SRMP) to assess the feasibility of a new operating authority for scheduled Part 135 operations in 10-30 seat aircraft. The panel will dig into the data as it works to address the risks that exist today while keeping in mind the future of the national airspace system.   

Whitaker added, “At the same time, we want to look at how future innovation might cause us to think differently. Safe air travel options should be available to everyone, not limited to only those living near a major airport. We want to put a safety lens over the options of future innovation, as we work to further connect small and rural communities to open up more options for everyone at the same high level of safety.” 

The FAA’s public charter work is being done in coordination with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). While the FAA focuses on the safety of the flying public, TSA focuses on the security of transportation systems. The TSA has been reviewing the security requirements of certain operators under the Twelve-Five Standard Security Program (TFSSP), which includes a proposal for the screening of passengers and their accessible property on public charter flights along with other requirements for all TFSSP operators. In accordance with 49 CFR 1544, TSA provided a 45-day comment period for the impacted operators that ends on June 27. TSA will adjudicate any comments received from industry and continue to work closely with the impacted operators. TSA will consider all of the feedback prior to issuing the changes in final.