Piloting a plane does not make one an operator. You need to own or otherwise provide an airplane for that. The owner of the aircraft is flying friends for free and paying a pilot so not only is there no revenue involved, there is the additional expense of paying the pilot on top of it. Because that is what the regulations require if you are going to own and operate an aircraft and charge the public a fee to fly them in it to the destination of their choosing on the schedule of their choosing. But that isn't the case when the owner of an airplane wants to fly his or her friends at no charge to them and pay a pilot to fly the plane. This doesn't seem like it should be all that tough to understand.