Doug Parker Strikes Again: American Airlines Fight Against JSX And The Quest To Kill Competition

Even in retirement, former American Airlines Chairman and CEO Doug Parker is still coming after quality air travel and customers having choice. Parker went on Airlines Confidential representing the argument made by his former employer on their quest to shut down Dallas-based carrier JSX.

He called operating out of private terminals a “national disaster just waiting to happen” that is “hopefully not being ignored, but not as urgently addressed as I think it should be.” Then he told a couple of weird stories.

  • A friend of his brought a bottle of vodka on the plane with him and he’s in shock that’s permitted. Of course you can check a bottle of vodka on American Airlines, and airports sell alcohol to passengers ‘to go’ which American Airlines has lobbied to shut down. JSX simply doesn’t have the inflight disturbances and diversions due to unruly passengers that you get with American!

  • A friend relayed to him “now they actually look at my ID to make sure it matches the boarding pass” offering a made up scare story that even in its particulars doesn’t make his case, since he’s saying they do the thing that they are supposed to do for security.

The truth is that American admitted to employees their real motive in lobbying to shut down JSX: not wanting to compete.

As Robert Isom put it in a closed meeting, though his comments leaked, “If you don’t have to deal with the same DOT provisions, the same FAA provisions, the same security TSA provisions that’s not fair…. I’m quite certain that the FAA, the DOT, and TSA will take a look at what’s going on and make sure that no one is advantaged..” (Emphasis mine.)

As host Scott McCartney points out, Parker was “involved in the creation of TSA after 9/11 and rules like locked cockpit doors, no liquids in large quantities, ID checks, No Fly Lists, etc.”

American Airlines and others have been lobbying to get the TSA to put JSX out of business since their efforts to get the FAA to do it may not work. Yet there’s really no increased security threat from JSX.

  • Passengers all go through a weapons-detecting scanner. Bags are swabbed. They can’t bring full sized carry on bags onto the aircraft, even (they’re checked plane-side). Every passenger is checked against government targeting databases like the No Fly List. And the TSA never expressed concerns over their security until airlines began lobbying to put JSX out of business.

  • Meanwhile, airport TSA screeners have questionable records on security – whether it’s stealing from passengers, missing dangerous items, or even causing chaos running through the airport screaming about a non-existent bomb and shooting victim.

Anyone that were to arrive on a JSX flight and connect to an airline would still have to pass through security. And 30 seat regional jets from a small carrier just don’t represent the same kind of attractive target as a worldwide flag carrier brand like American. Airport security should be risk- and mission-based.

If you want to hear the security parade of horribles, Parker is a good storyteller. And he scares you with the idea that JSX has 45 planes that could be taken over with boxcutters, despite screening every passenger for weapons and having reinforced cockpit doors.

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. He doesn’t argue for a size or weight limit on private jets departing FBOs that don’t have TSA screening. He doesn’t argue for a fuel limit that those planes can carry.

He doesn’t even mention the far bigger ‘vulnerability’ of private aviation because it would hurt his motivated reasoning – he wants to shut down an American Airlines competitor for premium passengers out of their main hub.

Parker says that he’s “not at American anymore” and they “wouldn’t want him doing this” because they “wouldn’t be this aggressive about their regulators publicly.” He’s explained perfectly why, as the retired CEO of the airline, he gets to freelance as their attack dog. The Airlines Confidential appearance on the issue isn’t a one-off. Parker says he personally raised JSX with the TSA Administrator in ex parte communications at a conference last year. And he says that Southwest’s Chief Operating Officer Andrew Watterson was there and joined his JSX conversation with the TSA Administrator.

I think my favorite comment he makes is to say that he worries TSA won’t do what he’s asking because things have gotten “politicized.” It’s American Airlines, Southwest, and the big pilot union that politicized it!

While Scott McCartney really doesn’t push back much on Parker’s TSA narrative he does ask about the airline effort to shut down JSX’s ability to hire co-pilots fewer hours of touch and go landings and clear air flight since Parker founded a non-profit to support diversity in the cockpit, removing barriers to people becoming pilots. Parker stammered and pivoted back to aviation security.

Doug Parker has a way of crafting self-serving narratives at odds with the facts. He’s been perhaps the single most effective advocate for airline subsidies – for America West when he was CEO there after 9/11, for American and others during the pandemic – and for industry consolidation that’s limited consumer choice. Later in the interview, talking about airline mergers and anti-trust, he offers “I’m always going to say they should get approved.”

He led the demise in experience at American, alienating shareholders, employees, and customers. Even post-retirement his work continues.

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. @Gene – United owns a stake in JSX, they filed a comment with DOT but also don’t want to anger their pilots. Delta has been strangely quiet, since they’re potentially affected – Wheels Up is a huge part 135 operator and has sold seats under part 380 as well.

  2. The chilling effect works. It’s made me not want to purchase JSX flights more than a few weeks out in case the route gets shut down. DAL-AUS on JSX was one of my favorites after Jetsmarter failed. Now that route is gone and I’m stuck flying with cattle on SW when I’m by myself.
    Volato Go may be a decent option if I’m taking the family.

  3. @hal – why fly dfw or dal to aus at all?

    i-35 is done except for one mile on the north side of waxahachie

    unless your destination is campus or south of town lake you are guaranteed to arrive in your own vehicle at the same time or earlier than any drive/park/tsa/fly/bergstrom-egress experience

    500 for a 3.5 hour drive? no bueno

    itching to use jsx but they just don’t have the destinations

    how about sfo? lax? lga? mdw? dca? 4 times a day?

    gsw would forking melt

  4. well said, Gary.
    This is a N. Texas airlines issue.
    DL isn’t going to get in the middle of a battle that doesn’t directly affect them.
    Wheels Up is marginally impacted.
    UA is trying to act like it cares w/o ticking anyone off.

    Of course it is an AA issue which is why JSX should be free to do what makes sense and AA should just suck it up

  5. American Airlines are doing what they always have. Craptastic customer service, bad pricing, and trying to shut down competitors anyway possible. Anyone remember Legend. American and Southwest are a disgrace to the DFW market.

  6. In other words, Parker isn’t entitled to have an opinion because it differs from yours. In my experience, Amercan is better today than it was before US Airways came into the picture. At least the flights arrive on time more often than not, which is more than they did back in the day – and after all, airlines exist primarily to transport people, not to show them movies. The vitriol in the piece is palpable. It almost reads as if you believe Parker should be put into a concentration camp and exterminated. Just because you disagree with someone is no excuse for personal attacks.

  7. doug prker can have a voice. He simply cannot do it to speak for anyone and esp. AA.
    And in this case, Gary’s opinions should probably be weighed heavier because Gary has no conflict of interest…. and yes dougie still gets benefits from AA

  8. I had to switch off that podcast, and I usually listen to it religiously. Parker has ulterior motives. Scott and Ben (perhaps rightfully so) didn’t want to poke holes in his arguments as their interview model is mostly softball questions in the vein of self-promotion.

    Weak sauce.

  9. Parker being “shocked” about a bottle of vodka being brought on board is rich considering his history.

  10. @Gene – I live a few mins from Love.
    @Hagbard Celine – have you seen the traffic in Waco and north austin? Back when traffic was better, Vonlane was a decent option.

  11. @Tim Dunn – not only does he still get benefits from American, we don’t know exactly how many shares he still owns since he’s no longer a director (he may have sold some without a public filing since then) but he had a couple million.

  12. @DesertGhost – “It almost reads as if you believe Parker should be put into a concentration camp and exterminated.”

    I had family who died in a concentration camp. That’s abhorrent.

    Parker has a history of destruction in the airline industry. I give him credit for one thing: picking taxpayer pockets. American Airlines would have gone back into chapter 11 restructuring without the nearly $10 billion in direct taxpayer cash he secured during the pandemic. Before that, though, he absolutely destroyed shareholder value. He alienated labor. And he transformed the airline into a high cost provider of a commodity product.

    In other words, he was a bad CEO who continually failed upward. He managed to run American Airlines because he was willing to overpay for it (for a time hidden by falling fuel prices) and by being willing to cut short the changes needed in bankruptcy. As far as American Airlines operations being improved, they were indeed more reliable in 2023 than during the time he served as CEO, for sure.

    Is he “entitled to have an opinion” absolutely – just as I’m entitled to point out how either disingenuous he is, or how utterly wrong-headed (though almost certainly the former).

    He shouldn’t be “put into a concentration camp” for that but he deserves scorn.

  13. “He led the demise in experience at American, alienating shareholders, employees, and customers. Even post-retirement his work continues.”

    – Doug Parker: My work is not yet done. There is more misery and despair to sow first.

  14. @DesertGhost
    While it’s essential to maintain civility and respect when engaging in discourse, suggesting that one’s opinion shouldn’t be challenged or criticized is counterproductive to intellectual growth and the pursuit of truth.

    In the statement you provided, the assertion that Parker isn’t entitled to an opinion because it differs from someone else is fallacious. Disagreement is a fundamental aspect of democracy and progress. It’s through the clash of ideas and perspectives that societies evolve and improve. However, it’s crucial to critique arguments rather than individuals, focusing on the merits of the ideas presented rather than resorting to ad hominem attacks.

    Regarding the assertion that American is better today than before US Airways, it’s essential to acknowledge that experiences vary, and what may be true for one person might not hold for others. While it’s commendable that flights arrive on time more frequently, it’s also essential to consider other aspects such as customer service, safety standards, and overall passenger satisfaction.

    Furthermore, equating criticism of a company or its policies to advocating for extreme measures like concentration camps is hyperbolic and diminishes the seriousness of such historical atrocities. Disagreement and criticism are essential components of a healthy democratic society and should be welcomed rather than silenced.

  15. @DesertGhost – Completely uncalled for and flat out wrong. I’m stunned that Gary is showing such self-restraint at such a stunningly tasteless and insensitive remark.

  16. “In my experience, Amercan (sic) is better today than it was before US Airways came into the picture. At least the flights arrive on time more often than not, which is more than they did back in the day – and after all, airlines exist primarily to transport people, not to show them movies.”

    Hmmm, I can remember when AA was ‘The On-Time Machine’, but I suppose I digress.

    Ya know DesertGhost, I’ve always read a bit of bias in many of your US dba AA posts simply because I believe you to have links to Tempe.

    From a business perspective, US has been a shitshow for what L-AA was attempting to do via the BK process: US LT debt added to a balance sheet that had been somewhat repaired; Parker essentially restoring pre-BK wages to mollify labor, yet without having demonstrated a strong business case that supported the restoration. I can recall Parker saying (to paraphrase), “he THOUGHT the POTENTIAL revenue gains from the merged carrier would offset”…. his munificence. Then, he went and did it again in 2017, mid-contract, and unprovoked….just Uncle Doug being his generous self.

    Stock buybacks just to prop up the value of his warrants???

    And since 2017, US dba AA pax ex – both onboard & on the ground – has essentially died a death by a thousand cuts in order to support the high costs of a carrier that fails to generate a revenue premium. Hmmm, it’d be nice if US dba AA could earn something approximating the revenue premium of its network competitors for purposes of that debt burden. But, I suppose that would be a difficult hurdle for the management of a high cost carrier that’s been taken downmarket. Can’t compete with the big guys, yet disadvantaged from a cost perspective vs. LCC/ULCC.

    I’m going to let my bias show here. A perspective lacking in professionalism for should it come to pass, the situation being referenced would mark an unfortunate turn, and potentially affect the livelihood of thousands that rely on the going concern I call US dba AA: I’m hoping like hell for BK22 if only for the opportunity for the “dilettantes” from Tempe (and their minions) to be shown the door.

    I’m hoping I live to see that day.

  17. So shouldn’t ALL airlines be like JSX? Why JSX gets to be the only one?

    Something’s indeed very fishy with JSX.

  18. JSX operates under the regulations for charter carriers.

    Yet they are a scheduled airline.

    The saying that the rules for thee, not for me, comes to mind.

  19. @1KBrad – JSX conforms to all applicable federal regulations. American and Southwest agree with this! That’s why they and ALPA are trying to get the government to CHANGE the regulations. There’s no one who believes they are skirting current rules.

    @Amy – the federal rules that apply here limit operations to 30 seats, and JSX is hardly the ‘only one’ (see, for instance, Contour)

  20. @Gary. You stated “Parker led the demise in experience at American alienating shareholders, employees, and customers”. Please add the retirees on future lists who Parker also “screwed”.

  21. @John C – not only is AA trying to shut down JSX, they are trying to eliminate travel agents. They are leveraging their AAdvantage program (which has been bastardized into a worthless mileage-sale machine) to get the flying public (and corporate customers) to book direct with AA. They don’t pay agents a commission on domestic sales, they keep their lowest fares off the GDS systems, and are forcing agencies to use a yet-to-work-efficiently NDC system to avoid paying GDS systems booking fees.
    Just another example of why travelers and agents in Latin America call American “Aerolineas Arrogantes”

  22. Gary,

    There is no doubt that Parker’s motives here are less than pure and his “concerns” if you will often essentially made up.

    But the fact does remain that JSX is operating just like a regional airline flying flights under a different regulatory scheme that gives them a cost advantage over anyone operating under 121. They are doing it with jets just like those being flown under 121. The operation may well be legal under the rules but clearly they have driven a truck through a loophole in the regs.

    That being said it would be equally unfair to JSX for the FAA to shut them down after having given pre approval to their operation.

    I don’t have a Solomonesq solution to this problem but clearly no matter what one company is getting screwed.

    You say that Parker “has a way of crafting self serving narratives at odds with the facts”. Unfortunately Gary when it comes to the 1500 hour rule it’s a failing you also share. Look I get you don’t believe in it. That’s fine. But please stop making up nonsense like “ability to hire co-pilots fewer hours of touch and go landings and clear air flight.” In 1999 when ai got my first airline job I had over 1500 hours as did all of my contemporaries. NONE of us accumulated those hours doing touch and goes in the VFR pattern. NONE. That’s not how ANYONE in this business builds hours. Again while I may disagree that it’s poor policy I recognize there are valid arguments that support that position. The total and utter fabrication that pilots are building hours running around the traffic pattern in VFR weather isn’t one of them. And as you should know knowingly making false arguments deeply undercuts your ability to make any kind of argument at all. Because if your willing (like Parker is) to spout stuff you know is false just to win and argument how can I trust anything that’s being said?

  23. @121 Pilot – flying E145s with 30 seats they don’t really have a huge CASM advantage that results from the rules they operate under, though the planes themselves are certainly cheap since they don’t have a big market elsewhere. they have lower pilot costs, and any upstart tends to have lower costs, but fixed costs are amortized over fewer seats and fuel costs aren’t low on these planes.

    Your comments about what your experience was like 25 years ago simply don’t reflect the reality of pilots coming up through regionals today, where carriers report having to train the bad habits out of new pilots that they picked up in their quest for hours for hours sake (and while you may have had 1,500 hours then, it wouldn’t have been in your quest to qualify to fly commercial since it wasn’t required back then – totally different).

    Now, it’s not just clear air touch and go flying, it’s paid flying of aerial billboards. And while I’ve noted that someone *could* rack up hours in a (tethered) hot air balloon, it has not been my suggestion that anyone is doing a substantial number of their hours that way. Just underscoring the silliness of the rule.

    There’s no need to change the rule to protect Southwest and American from JSX. There can and should be a multitude of business models carriers experiment with consistent with published rules.

  24. Doug Parker should have focused on his own airline. Worst customer service airline there is. People will choose what they want. Next he’ll be complaining about the Cessna 152’s that are stealing customers. He should be fearing United Airlines as he “gave them” their leader!

  25. RICO ACT for Dougie and Staff
    How much did Dougie make off Stock Options?
    0ver $450 million?
    A Stock Push & Dump twice? (US/HP, US/AA)

  26. Great article. I am getting a much clearer picture now of the fight against JSX. Mr. Parker is irrelevant (or should be) now. Anything new and better will always frighten the Goliath airlines holding the gates.

  27. I’m not surprised desertghost thinks the merger was a good thing, after all he heavily supported it at the time and their supporters were and still are incredibly stubborn.

    When you raise LCC (US Airways stock moniker) wages to AA levels, raise AA wages by a good amount, and slap on the noticeable debt that LCC had, you kill any cost savings from the merger.

    AAL significantly underperforms DAL and UAL and there’s no way AMR/LCC stock could be priced lower.

  28. Gary:

    “JSX conforms to all applicable federal regulations. American and Southwest agree with this! That’s why they and ALPA are trying to get the government to CHANGE the regulations. There’s no one who believes they are skirting current rules.”

    The rules JSX is using apply to on-demand CHARTER operations–not scheduled carriers, which is what JSX clearly is.

    JSX is exploiting a loophole that was unintentionally left open in the regulations.

  29. @1KBrad – No, JSX has two separate companies: a charter operator under part 135 and a company selling individual tickets on charter flights under part 380. They conform to both sets of regulations, and the FAA signed off on this. Congress passed a law that said the FAA could not impose heavier regulatory burdens on this structure.

    It was not “unintentionally left open in the regulations.” Quite the opposite. Parts 135 and 380 were intentionally linked in the rules, and in 1997 when this was accidentally left out the FAA went back and corrected it.

  30. Sorry Gary, but you are missing the point entirely.

    JSX is NOT a charter carrier. It is a scheduled air carrier.

  31. It is so weird how desperately you defend JSX. Yes of course you have no financial interest in them. You just earnestly comment on these feeds and not other feeds lol

  32. @J Smith – too bad you’re rude, because if you stuck to substantive arguments you’d merely be wrong.

    Funny story… I wrote about the sweepstakes JSX is running for seats on their eclipse flight piloted by an ex-NASA shuttle commander on April 8

    I did not even enter the sweepstakes myself because people like you would claim if I’d won that it was somehow rigged to compensate me for making arguments that are true. But you advance that sort of nonsense *anyway*.

    You can’t argue with the substance, so you cast aspersions, and it doesn’t matter to you at all that those are in no way based on fact. You’re just making them up.

  33. Every time someone argues facts on JSX you just parrot your old comments. There is zero logic behind letting older pilots fly. Please explain to me anywhere an older person is safer. Car drivers, insurance goes up as people are older because… Wait for it. They have statical facts showing as we age we aren’t as adept/safe. NFL.. wait for it. Players retire as they age because they aren’t safe as they age. Yet somehow you keep arguing pilots are fine to keep flying as they age. Why? Oh right because it’s JSX.

  34. @J Smith – A recently-retired American Airlines and Southwest Airlines widebody captain who passes their medical but happens to be 66 versus a rookie? You also need to look at the missions they’re flying. JSX has 90% of planes returning to base at night, which means their pilots spend the night in their own beds. That’s totally different from the jetlag experienced on overseas trips. Fatigue is the biggest risk with pilots, and there’s less fatigue for a pilot flying 1-2 hour hops on JSX and sleeping at home.

  35. Doug Parker is the biggest disgrace in Airlines history. He is by far the worst of all ex CEOs. Every single change he influenced was a negative one.

  36. Thanks to D0, I just booked 3 more JSX flights. As a former longtime, hub based, Executive Platinum I changed completely to the free agent mentality at had exactly 1 revenue flight on AA last year.

  37. I’m a travel agent and Executive Platinum on AA.

    I fly JSX every time they offer same O/D service. No surly flight attendant attitude and superior service all-around.

    Plus JSX isn’t trying to put me out of business!

  38. We fly AA 1st class and JSX. My comment concerns the TSA Security at airports. So why are illegals allowed to bypass security and board planes with their carry-on luggage? At least JSX is secure and checks every passenger who boards their planes.

  39. I listened to this podcast. Doug said many times that he isn’t against JSX and that competition is good. I think it would be better for people to listen to the podcast rather than read this article. This article seems to be coming from a premise that Doug Parker is a bad guy. Listen to the podcast everything he said made total sense.

  40. @Jonathan – Doug is being disingenuous, and clearly so, yes by all means listen and you’ll come to a very different conclusion than @Jonathan

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