Updated: Dec 8, 2020

Commercial Pilot Pay Lesson by wifiCFI

Common Carriage (AC 120-12A)

A carrier becomes a Common Carrier when it “holds itself out” to the public, or to a segment of the public, as willing to furnish transportation within the limits of its facilities to any person who wants it.

Occasional refusals to transport are not conclusive proof that the carrier is not a Common Carrier.

There are 4 elements in defining a Common Carrier:

A holding out or willingness to

Transport persons or property

From place to place

For compensation

Holding Out (AC 120-12A)

Signs and advertising.

Using agents, agencies, or salesman to procure passenger traffic.

Physically holding out without advertising can be accomplished by:

Gaining a reputation to carry all customers or cargo.

A carrier holding itself out as generally willing to carry only certain kinds of traffic is, nevertheless, a common carrier. 

For instance, a carrier authorized or willing only to carry planeloads of passengers, cargo, or mail on a charter basis is a common carrier.

A carrier flying charters for only one organization may be a common carrier if membership in the organization and participation in the flights are, in effect, open to a significant segment of the public.

Exceptions to Holding out

Flight Instruction

Non-Stop Commercial Air Tours:

Must begin and end at the same airport

Must stay within 25 SM

Must have a Letter of Authorization (LOA) (FAR 91.147)

Ferry or training flights

Aerial work operations including:

Crop dusting



Bird Chasing

Banner Towing

Aerial photography or survey

Fire fighting

Powerline or pipeline patrol

Parachute operations:


Within a 25 SM radius

Emergency mail service

Private Carriage (AC 120-12A)

Carriage for hire which does not involve "holding out" is private carriage. Private carriers for hire are sometimes called "contract carriers.”

Private carriage for hire is carriage for one or several selected customers , generally on a long-term basis. 

The number of contracts must not be too great, otherwise it implies a willingness to make a contract with anybody. 

The Great Debate

Persons admittedly operating as common carriers in a certain field (for instance, in intrastate commerce) sometimes claim that transportation for hire which they perform in other fields (for instance, interstate or foreign commerce) is private carriage. 

To sustain such a claim, the carrier must show that the private carriage is clearly distinguishable from its common carriage business and outside the scope of its holding out. 

The claimed private carriage must be viewed in relation to and against the background of the entire carrying activity. 

Historically, Civil Aeronautics Board decisions have concluded that only in rare instances could carriage engaged in by a common carrier be legitimately classified as private.


Private Carriage can fall under Part 91 Operations and does not need an Operational Certificate.

Common Carriage requires on Operational Certificate

Clear as mud?

Didn’t think so…

Use the flow chart found below to simplify these concepts and make life easy.

FAA Sources Used for This Lesson

Advisory Circular (AC 120-12A)

Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) Part 91

Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) Part 119

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