Although the UK does not permit pilots without a commercial license to charge for flights, there are ways in which sharing the cost of a flight in non-complex aircrafts is allowed: known, unsurprisingly, as ‘cost-sharing flights’.
Yet there are strict preconditions attached to ‘cost-sharing flights’. Pilots are only allowed to charge ‘direct costs’ associated with the trip, for instance, fuel, landing fees and any rental or hire fees. ‘Annual costs’ on the other hand, like maintenance and operating costs (excluding any element of profit) over the course of a year cannot comprise the costs passed onto passengers in cost-sharing flights. The guidelines apply to helicopters fitting six persons or less, including the pilot, and stipulate that any direct costs must also be shared by the pilot, a pilot cannot share out costs without incurring some themselves.
Equally, pilots should endeavour to inform passengers about potential risks and safety levels in non-commercial general aviation. Often the CAA’s UK Aviation Safety Review(CAP1595) comparisons between safety levels in general aviation flights with light aircrafts and commercial flights can prove useful in doing so.
Similarly, pilots are encouraged to remember that cost-sharing with strangers brings with it new insurance implications and issues regarding personal safety. They should take care to consider these. If any concerns do come up, the CAA provides a webpage in which you can report these.
Pilots can, however, promote flights or make use of online ‘flight-sharing’ platforms (like Wingly) to find passengers. Although passengers, and pilots, are free to cancel such trips without the obligation of paying a fee and are never under any obligation to take the flight.
Some careful compliance then is needed to ensure a given flight complies with regulations and is therefore legal. Further information on the subject, including possible exemptions, is available here.