Today we have two quite similar tags:

It looks like we have both to distinguish between commercial and airline operations, e.g. charter flights are commercial operations but not airline operations.

That distinction is significant for pilots and others, but in reality it seems that many (most?) people posting questions aren't aware of it: many of the 'commercial' operations questions are explicitly about airlines. That's completely understandable, but it means that in practice the tag has limited value today.

What - if anything - should we do about it? Some options are:

  1. Keep both tags; re-tag new and existing questions properly
  2. Make a synonym for , i.e. decide that the difference is too subtle and mostly irrelevant here
  3. Something else...?

If we do keep both tags, I'd say we need much better tag info for both of them that isn't based on US definitions.

  • $\begingroup$ Should "commercial-operations" be renamed to something like "non-airline-operations" to make its intent more obvious? $\endgroup$ – Dan Pichelman Jan 22 '17 at 15:26

I would not merge them since they are different. Instead, having clear info in the -tag that explains its use and point out the existence of the -tag.

Of course then a retag operation is needed to ensure both tags are used properly.

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    $\begingroup$ I tend to agree with DeltaLima. It actually is a pretty significant difference, just not one that people not in aviation are necessarily familiar with. I'd think improving the tag wikis and, especially, providing usage guidance in the excerpts would be the best course of action. I don't think the difference is U.S.-specific, as evidenced by the requirement for an entirely different pilot certificate for these operations pretty much worldwide. $\endgroup$ – reirab Jan 24 '17 at 9:11
  • $\begingroup$ I agree the difference is significant, and correctness and accuracy are very important on this site. On the other hand, if only 10% (or whatever) of people using this site know and care about the difference, and the other 90% don't, then is the never-ending job of explaining and re-tagging worth it? It's an open question and I don't know the right answer. $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Jan 26 '17 at 16:32

All airline operations are commercial, but not all commercial operations are related to airlines. So is a subset of .

But there is a difference, and I think the difference is significant enough to us in the community. Think commercial pilot license vs. airline transport pilot license. It may not be apparent to general users, but it matters to us.

I vote to keep both tags. If general users are confusing the tags, then the tag description should be updated to reflect their usage among the community.

  • $\begingroup$ Well, this depends on how we define the terms and how we want to use the tags. One way is exactly as you suggest, but another is that commercial = part 135 and airline = part 121 (to use US terms), i.e. there's no overlap. Since there's little or no tag info today, and the tags are used very inconsistently, it isn't clear to me how the community thinks we should be using them. $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Jan 26 '17 at 16:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Pondlife I'd prefer an definition that fits ICAO or international standards, if possible. $\endgroup$ – kevin Jan 26 '17 at 16:58
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    $\begingroup$ @kevin I'd think airline-operations = "scheduled air carriers" and commercial-operations = "commercial operations that aren't scheduled air carriers" should be a sufficient generic definition to allow worldwide applicability without having to choose a particular standards organization. $\endgroup$ – reirab Jan 26 '17 at 23:08

I think the distinction between the terms is important, and I think that carrying that distinction through to our tagging system is worthwhile.

In terms of whether or not to edit questions to retag, as things now stand is a valid—if imprecise—tag to use on a question regarding airline operations. The converse is not true, but far less likely to occur. My conclusion is that we have no burden to correct what is not actually incorrect in the former instance, and little risk of a user using a truly incorrect tag leading to the latter instance. That being said, I do prefer to retag a question when it is clearly about airline operations.

I do see that many users are confused about the distinctions, and I do think that updating our tag descriptions and wikis could be helpful.

Commercial aviation operations certainly comprise a broad spectrum of the aviation world, which could include flight instruction, crop dusting, patrol, air ambulance, corporate, charter, and airline operations. For FAA purposes, commercial flying—in terms of pilot flight time—is well defined and very broad.

The term airline and the derivations thereof are very difficult to define. However, we each probably have some idea of what we mean by that word, and could probably all agree on some minimum—but not exclusive—definition of "airline".

Examples of being put to good use:


I think most pilots will be thinking something similar to me, that commercial and airline operations are different. When I think commercial I think of 14 CFR 135 and when I think airline I think 14 CFR 121.

That said, it might not carry outside the US. Also, among non-pilot types it's hard to convey the differences between commercial and airline.

My vote is to make commercial a synonym of airline. This works best for the questions we have.

If folks want to ask questions specific to 14 CFR 135 they can just specify in those rare of cases.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm just taking a stab at giving my two cents in Aviation.SE Meta. Looking forward to feedback. $\endgroup$ – ryan1618 Jan 23 '17 at 2:43
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, my question is partly to find out if the commercial vs. airline distinction is important or not for this site. I suspect it isn't, as you said, but I'm curious to hear what others think. $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Jan 23 '17 at 13:44

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