Big Airlines Enlist Powerful Ex-Congressman-Turned-Lobbyist To Go After Little Competitor JSX

Ex-Congressman Pete DeFazio, now on airline payrolls, calls for a government crackdown on small competitor JSX. He echoes the narrative launched in February by former American Airlines CEO Doug Parker that flights departing private terminals are unsafe, but like Parker offers a dishonest narrative in doing so.

  • He argues that scheduled charter flights have grown significantly, and this represents a security vulnerability. He never explains why charter schedules are a problem. The number of charter flights sold today is no greater than it was when airlines were deregulated 46 years ago.

    More importantly he never mentions the more than 4 million private flights per year in the U.S. that don’t go through TSA screening either and that lack JSX screening, swabbing, and checking against government databases. While a Member of Congress, DeFazio even criticized restrictions on private aviation.

    It’s fine when Pete DeFazio, and those like him, depart from private terminals – but give that opportunity to someone who might otherwise only be able to buy a ticket from a major airline and that has to be stopped.

    JSX Embraer ERJ-145

  • He calls the ability to sell charter flights on a schedule a ‘loophole’ when he of all people knows perfectly well that it was explicitly written into regulations and when the FAA left it out they affirmatively corrected the drafting mistake.

  • He claims – without any justification – that JSX “actively prioritize[s] convenience over safety” while failing to acknowledge that JSX checks passengers against government watch lists and screens passengers for both chemicals and items shaped like a weapon – and that their systems need to be compared to TSA detection success rates which (when they’ve been revealed) have been exceptionally low.

    JSX Passenger Boarding

DeFazio expressed absolutely no concerns with JSX in his years chairing the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee (he retired from Congress just last year).

He says he “coauthored the bill that created” the TSA, but he fails to mention that the agency itself had approved JSX’s security program and itself had expressed no concerns with the carrier until the big airlines started their lobbying campaign.

Now DeFazio tries to leverage his former role as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee as a newly-registered lobbyist. He’s known for taking his orders from interest groups, as told by Semafor editor Liz Hoffman in her new book outlining how companies secured government bailouts at the start of the pandemic.

[Airline] CEOs heard [flight attendants union head Sara] Nelson barking orders on the phone to someone they assumed was a union underling. Instead, it was Peter DeFazio, the then-chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

According to a TSA spokesperson,

TSA works closely with all its airline stakeholders to ensure the appropriate security procedures are in place to protect the nation’s transportation systems. There is an increase in the number of flights operated under this business model, so TSA is ensuring that its security requirements evolve with these changes. However, TSA is not doing this in a vacuum. The agency will continue to solicit input from airlines as part of its review of its security program related to these public charter flights. TSA will provide operators enrolled in the Twelve-Five Standard Security Program a comment period to provide inputs to the draft security program language and an implementation timeline to allow them to meet new requirements for operations.

JSX Cabin Interior

TSA expects to complete its process “in due course and in full coordination with those impacted airlines.” I asked on Tuesday when this review process began and they, unsurprisingly, went dark. Doug Parker says the TSA Administrator didn’t have this on his radar until American’s and Southwest’s lobbying started.

Texas Monthly has a piece in its April issue about American Airlines, Southwest, and big labor unions trying to crush the upstart JSX. The author interviewed two American Airlines executives who trashed JSX’s safety, but refused to allow their names to be used. They didn’t want their fingerprints on cravenly self-interested falsehoods. DeFazio, as a lobbyist, has no such compunction.


According to former American CEO Doug Parker, TSA review of JSX began after an ex parte meeting he and Southwest COO Andrew Watterson had pitching the idea to Administrator Pekoske. Current American CEO Robert Isom told employees in October after the airline’s 3rd quarter earnings call that their issue was ‘fairness’ (self-interest) in pushing for FAA and TSA crackdowm on their Dallas-based competitor.

There is no secret what is going on here. A couple of readers have asked why I keep writing about this when a new broadside comes out from the big airlines. It’s because you’re being lied to. You’re just being lied to. And that’s triggering.

For avoidance of doubt, while Pete DeFazio works as a lobbyist, I am not paid by any side in this dispute. If anything, speaking against the interest of major airlines works against my own interests.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The JSX fight will probably end up as a Democrat vs Republican issue although both Democrats and Republicans fly JSX if they have the resources. DeFazio was elected as a Democrat in Oregon.

  2. Heaven forbid someone comes up and offers a better product, albeit on a smaller scale, to the general public. Guys like Parker, Isom, and union slugs like Nelson, Hedrick and the like should focus on improving their product instead.

  3. “…that flights departing private terminals are unsafe,…”

    “The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it.” H.L. Mencken

  4. It’s ridiculous to put any stock in the opinions of, or be swayed by the rhetoric of a lobbyist, no matter his background and previous positions held. Everyone should recognize that as paid lobbyists, they’re simply pushing the agenda of and operating in the sole interest of those who pay them.

  5. keep talking, Gary, and good for Texas Monthly.
    Use your pull to get this discussion elevated as hig has it can be.

    American business is clearly about preserving and maximizing itself but this is one of the worst examples of hurting consumers at the behest of big airlines – 2 Texas-based ones anyway

  6. “He says he “coauthored the bill that created” the TSA”

    Well, right there he lost all credibility with me.

  7. Why not negotiate a widespread opening of Dallas Love Field and Washington National and nationwide cabotage to Singaporean, Australian, Taiwanese, and Canadian carriers, in exchange for arresting JSX management?

  8. The best thing for flyers is to encourage new businesses like JSX to start up. Blocking them only benefits the monopolies.

  9. American and Southwest have a strangle hold on Dallas. They provide crappy service, expensive flights and will do anything to keep their monopoly in place. The irony of American being their name, and yet being Anti American. Instead of using crony capitalism maybe they should upscale their service and products.

  10. I listened to Doug Parker dump on JSX on the podcast Airlines Confidential several weeks ago and it was like nails on a chalkboard. He claimed to have no dog in the fight except of course for his millions of share of AA stock.

    I really dislike Parker. I just think he is the epitome of mediocrity.

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