Public Charter JSX Fights New Regs


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.”

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. If it walks like a duck….
    That a company using a loophole would have to shut down if the law was adapted to work as intended can’t be an argument against closing that loophole.

  2. On the other hand, that company is filling a market desire for less complicated, time consuming boarding and exiting commercial flights, as well as having a cabin that feels less like the inside of a sardine can, replete with unruly disheveled passengers, some of whom are inebriated to a degree that would reward them with a DUI if they were driving a car.

  3. I’m torn on this one. On the one hand, I agree with Siegfried. Exploiting a loophole the getting upset when they try to close the loophole isn’t a valid reason not to close the loophole. On the other hand, how long before they try to extend the security to the rest of Part 135? And when (if) they demand TSA level security for 135, how long until EVERYONE (i.e. Part 91) who steps foot on an airport has to go through the same security? Does anyone here think it’s acceptable to have to have this kind of security to get to your hangar? Or even feasible? There are so many ramifications, from just getting tools and whatnot to your hangar to carrying firearms when flying Part 91, and everything in between.

    • I agree on the TSA issue. Pt 135 has never had or been involved with any security problem. No pt135 operator is going to allow anyone on board who they think is a security risk. It is infuriating that our government/TSA thinks GA/pt135 is a security risk. Unfortunately I am reminded of this nonsense every year when I have to take the worthless TSA training. I also would be surprised if any insurance company is going to cover operations with pilots who have less than 1500 hours. Remember there is no general flight time requirement for pt121 first officers, just an ATP requirement.

  4. So, maybe they should implement a security clearing process and that would resolve the airline issues. Somehow I doubt it. If they are following all the rules, then they should be allowed to keep flying.
    How will this compare to Delta buying and operating Wheels Up?

  5. We should not forget that TSA really stands for Thousands Standing Around. TSA is not really security, but security theater. Confiscating nail clippers while allowing Cross pens and a million more examples do nothing to enhance security while “profiling”, which would arguably enhance security isn’t done as it offends people.

  6. I wasn’t sure about this issue but as things develop, it’s starting to seem like the airlines are trying to use “safety” to apply pressure to their competition. If I felt like the expense was justified, I’d fly by “public charter” too, given the generally poor experience of airline travel. It looks like rather than upping their game, the airlines are trying to invoke “the authorities” to work on their behalf.

  7. “Loopholes” only exist when someone wants to denigrate a portion of the regs that don’t work for them personally. I enjoy the “loophole” of flying a plane that weighs less than 12,500 pounds, but that so called “loophole” is not a trick, it is a categorization that exists for a common sense reason. Likewise, 30 seats or less is not a loophole, it is a categorization that also exists for a common sense reason. We as an industry are very good at promoting common sense regulations on ourselves, in our own categories. Airlines have no place campaigning for regulations on sectors that they are not a part of.

  8. There are major differences between a 121 carrier and a 135 carrier and it goes way beyond TSA requirements. Two examples are part 135 pilots can be older than 65 and still fly and part 135 operators are not required to have flight dispatchers. Duty and flight time limitations are also much stricter for part 121 pilots. I’ve worked for both 135 and 121 carriers and the difference operationally is like day and night. If fact, there are some part 135 operators that are not authorized to operate at night or IFR. Many 135 operators try to convince the flying public that they are as safe as any 121 carrier without having to meet the same regulations and standards. They are counting on their ignorance.

  9. If you offer a regular service flying from A to B the same rules should apply regardless of whether you rip a few seats out.

    Services like this ARE different from regular 135 ops as you‘ll have a lot more pax that you know a lot less.

    As mentioned above there‘s a lot more safety difference between 121 and 135 than pilot experience.

    Wheels Up imho is something different. As has been tried from time to time without lasting impact it‘s a major carrier trying to extend its offerings to cater to an upscale market.