A Dallas-based “public charter” has appealed to its tens of thousands of customers to protest proposed regulations that it says will put it out of business, and they have responded in droves. So far JSX’s appeal has generated almost 40,000 comments on the docket for the new regs, and about 100,000 have clicked on a link that sends a “message of support” for the service to members of Congress. JSX CEO Alex Wilcox told the Dallas Morning News he believes the federal review was prompted by airlines and unions who want to destroy competition. “This is pure back-room politicking done by competitors out of complete self-interest,” he told the newspaper.
As we reported in August, the FAA says services like JSX’s are “indistinguishable” from regular airlines but operate under Part 135 rules that allow the flights to be operated with pilots with less than 1,500 hours and significantly less departure point security. Rather than flying from airport’s main terminal, passengers board at the company hangar and essentially skip the traditional security regimen. The TSA is also looking into such operations. The FAA says the more relaxed standards pose a potential safety risk.
Wilcox said the highest safety and security standards are maintained and the company operates to the letter of the law. He also might argue that the service is a lot better than that of regular airlines. The current rules allow charters to operate scheduled service with advance bookings if the planes have 30 seats or less. JSX has taken 20 seats out of each of its fleet of Embraer 135 and 145 aircraft and spread them out so legroom is comparable with mainline business class. Some seats have a table next to them instead of a seat. Passengers get a free drink or snack and JSX claims the hangar boarding saves them two hours in the travel process.
The airlines and unions argue that passengers on all scheduled flights should expect the same standards on all aircraft. Southwest told the Morning News it “supports the position of airline industry pilots, flight attendants and air traffic controllers who believe there needs to be one level of safety for anyone flying on a scheduled air carrier.” But JSX maintains it has nothing to do with safety or security. “If these airlines and labor groups succeed, JSX will be forced out of business,” the email said. “They’re using unsubstantiated allegations about aviation safety to push for our shutdown out of greed.”