From what I understand, whether or not a flight is classified as private or commercial in the eyes of US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has nothing to do with the Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) flight rules that they are operating under. For instance, I understand that I can legally be operating under FAR Part 91 and still be a commercial flight in the eyes of CBP. What then is the determining factor?


1 Answer 1


According to the CBP eAPIS FAQ, this definition is in 19 CFR 122.1:

(d) Commercial aircraft. A “commercial aircraft” is any aircraft transporting passengers and/or cargo for some payment or other consideration, including money or services rendered.


(h) Private aircraft. A “private aircraft” is any aircraft engaged in a personal or business flight to or from the U.S. which is not:

(1) Carrying passengers and/or cargo for commercial purposes;

(2) Leaving the U.S. carrying neither passengers nor cargo in order to lade passengers and/or cargo in a foreign area for commercial purposes; or

(3) Returning to the U.S. carrying neither passengers nor cargo in ballast after leaving with passengers and/or cargo for commercial purposes;

  • $\begingroup$ Nice answer! This is good to know. $\endgroup$
    – egid
    Dec 18, 2013 at 18:50
  • $\begingroup$ That's pretty much the FAA definition, is it not? $\endgroup$ Jan 24, 2020 at 3:27
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelHall Not exactly. There are some situations where a Part 91 flight can accept money, but still be operating under Part 91 (such as training flights, ferry flights, and other exceptions in 14 CFR 119.1). In this case, they would still be considered a commercial aircraft by CBP. $\endgroup$
    – Lnafziger
    Jan 28, 2020 at 17:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Lnafziger - The OP in the question, Pondlife in his answer, me in my comment, and now you, are all saying the same thing: If you are receiving compensation it is a commercial flight, regardless of the CFR part you are operating under. Is there a misunderstanding? Because I think we all agree... $\endgroup$ Jan 28, 2020 at 18:30
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @MichaelHall I agree! However, CBP would not. Their definition is different than what the FAA uses (see the answer that we are commenting on). If the actual flight in question does not have passengers and/or cargo on board for hire (and it doesn't meet any of the other requirements), then it is not a commercial flight per CBP rules/guidelines. If there are paying customers on board, then it would be a commercial flight per CBP. $\endgroup$
    – Lnafziger
    Jan 31, 2020 at 7:12

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