I came across this, How do PPL, CPL, and ATPL compare? and was intrigued by the fact that a PPL cannot fly for any payment whatsoever.

To what extent is this enforced? An example scenario would suggest that, for example, I fly my employer to an exhibition on the continent, which he then claims from the company and privately reimburses me for the hire and landing fees. Alternatively, I receive some kind of company bonus to cover the cost, or even further, he blatantly pays on a company card.

Is this illegal? How could this kind of activity be stopped?

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Aviation.SE. Firstly, don't try to bend definition of payment. Payment is payment regardless of the form it comes in. Second, even if a rule isn't enforced, doesn't make it right. $\endgroup$ Jan 29, 2017 at 16:10
  • $\begingroup$ I wasn't trying to bend anything or suggest future intentions here, and I certainly don't like breaking laws. I was just giving the first example that came to mind, and to stimulate a discussion about this topic, which clearly must be broken on a regular basis. I do believe the question was, how is this enforced? $\endgroup$ Jan 29, 2017 at 16:38
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to aviation.SE! This is an interesting question and I hope you get a good answer, but please note that this isn't a forum: the goal of all SE sites is not to discuss topics but rather to give the best possible answer to a specific question. You might want to check out the tour if you haven't already, to get some more background on how the site works. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Jan 29, 2017 at 16:42
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    $\begingroup$ So why would authorities such as the CAA create laws like this if there was no way of enforcing it? I came across some official documentation on the CAA's website, saying that of August 2016, flights can be 'cost-shared' by up to a maximum of 6 people, across the EU. This seems to me that this remuneration law is only applicable to scenarios which include making profit, such as pleasure flights. caa.co.uk/General-aviation/Aircraft-ownership-and-maintenance/… $\endgroup$ Jan 29, 2017 at 17:22
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    $\begingroup$ Flying your boss to any function related to work is a commercial flight under most jurisdictions, and cannot be done using a PPL regardless whether you're paid or not. $\endgroup$
    – falstro
    Jan 29, 2017 at 19:04

2 Answers 2


The rules are as follows:

  1. Privileges and limitations

    1. A holder of a PPL may, for compensation or hire, act as a crewmember of an aircraft in connection with any business or employment if—

a. the flight is only incidental to that business or employment; and
b. the aircraft does not carry passengers or property for compensation or hire.

"Compensation or hire" means income, not expenses. You can always be reimbursed for expenses such as fuels. Only income is forbidden under certain circumstances (see below).

Concerning getting income, you can be paid income if both of conditions (a) and (b) above true. That means your business cannot be anything to do with flight. If your company is Boeing or any air-travel related business, you cannot receive ANY income (even your salary) for piloting such a flight.

The aircraft cannot be used to carry paying passengers or cargo.

So, basically what this means is that if you fly anybody from your company, they can pay only the expenses of the aircraft and nothing else. You can be paid your salary, only if flying is not your job in any way. As long as you have a regular job and it is fully incidental to flying, then you can fly clients and fellow employees and receive expense reimbursement only. If you are flying clients, they cannot in any way be paying money for the flight other than direct expenses like fuel.

The usual consequence of violating these regulations is that your license to fly can be suspended or revoked. Technically speaking, flying for hire without a license is a minor criminal offense (see below), however prosecutions in the past have only been given out for egregious violations (like working for a charter company without a commercial license).

The way these regulations are enforced is the following:

(1) If you are flying passengers or cargo for hire, and somebody rats you out, complains to the CAA, or it otherwise comes to their attention, then they will investigate and revoke your license if they determine you are flying for hire.

(2) The CAA has inspectors and they may do surprise inspections of aircraft. If you start flying passengers regularly, you may get inspected. If the inspector finds you are flying a bunch of passengers with a PPL, they will closely question your passengers about what money those people are paying. If the inspector determines they are paying money other than incidental expenses to be flown, you will likely have your PPL license revoked.


You are flying 3 colleagues to a business meeting. A CAA inspector directs you to park on the ramp and inspects you and finds out you have a PPL. He will then question your passengers. How much are you paying for this flight? Colleagues answer:

(1) "nothing". You are ok.

(2) "18 pounds". You are probably ok.

(3) "200 pounds". You will lose your license.

If he see cargo on the aircraft, then there are two possibilities:

(1) He determines that the cargo is incidental to the flight and it belongs to you. (Like scientific equipment and you are a professor flying to an archeological site). You are ok.

(4) He sees cargo on the aircraft that does NOT belong to you (like 8 cases of computer chips being delivered to an electronics company). You will lose your license because you are flying cargo for hire.

Criminal Issues

Note that technically, flying for hire is a minor criminal offense in the UK and can be punished with a fine up to 2500 pounds in a magistrate court. However, it is very rare for this kind of offense to be criminally prosecuted. In the linked news story it was found there was only a single prosecution over the course of a year, and in that case it was a pilot working for a charter company and doing many commercial passenger flights, which was a blatant violation of the rules.

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    $\begingroup$ The CAA has civil and criminal powers to bring prosecutions. They can do far more than invoke your license. $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Jan 29, 2017 at 18:30
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    $\begingroup$ You could start here. caa.co.uk/Data-and-analysis/Data-for-passengers/…. The regulatory environment is very different to the US. The Air Navigation Order is a statutory instrument and is part of the Civil Aviation Act. The CAA has power to bring either civil or criminal prosecutions for violations. caa.co.uk/uploadedFiles/CAA/Content/Standard_Content/…. You should be careful in suggesting that revocation of license is the worst penalty. $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Jan 29, 2017 at 18:42
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    $\begingroup$ May I suggest that you edit your post to remove the statement that they are "just rules"? A criminal conviction, whether in a magistrates court or a high court is a very serious blemish. It is, for example, enough to get you refused entry into many countries, including the US. $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Jan 29, 2017 at 19:00
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    $\begingroup$ @Simon Yes, I made that change, since as you pointed out, the license requirements do apparently have the force of law in the UK. $\endgroup$ Jan 29, 2017 at 19:03
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    $\begingroup$ @E.Nunn If you rent the plane, theoretically you could expense that cost. So, for example, if the rental costs 200 pounds and you were flying 3 others, you would split it 4 ways, each paying 50 pounds. Keep all receipts. If you pay an equal share, it is evidence that you are not receiving compensation, so it is always a good idea to do that. $\endgroup$ Jan 30, 2017 at 13:58

There are some long answers to a simple question here. In the UK private pilot license holders are allowed to share the direct costs of a flight between a maximum of 6 people including the pilot although how much the pilot has to contribute isn’t specified. Direct costs are things like, fuel, aircraft hire and landing fees.

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome! That's true but the question is not what are the rules, but how much they are enforced. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Dec 13, 2017 at 8:54

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