FAA Proposes To Ban JSX Because They Offer Passengers A Popular, Quality Product

Due to a lack of pilots, major airlines have left scores of small markets. And the biggest airlines have virtually indistinguishable operations, offering seats with basically the same layout (same width, same legroom within a couple of inches) and very similar service levels.

The largest airports are congested. In some cases this is due to government slot restrictions. In other cases it’s how government-owned airports manage their gates, keeping new entrants out. Either way, it’s difficult for new carriers to break in.

In response to this, new airlines have started – or are trying to start – using rules that were laid out by the FAA.

  • Use planes with no more than 30 seats, and you can have co-pilots with 250 hours of flight experience paired with 1,500 hour captains (similar rules to what was permitted at major carriers before 2010, and that many senior pilots flying today started their careers under).

  • This can mean taking 50 seat regional jets and outfitting them with just 30 seats, as JSX does. That means ‘everyone flies first class’. JSX offers free snacks, free drinks, free checked bags and StarLink internet which performs better than what any major airline offers because the satellites are in a lower orbit (signals don’t have to travel as far).

  • And even these operations can even fly out of private terminals offering greater convenience.

  • Regional carrier SkyWest has proposed an operation, entirely legal under current rules, that would follow the JSX model to provide service to small communities that can’t sustain service with large aircraft and $200,000+ per year pilots.

There hasn’t been a single safety issue identified with Part 380 carriers complying with the rules applicable to Part 121 operations. In fact, the rulemaking even notes that “the FAA has adjusted its oversight of these increased operations” and has not expressed a concern about JSX or similar carriers.

The only reason the agency cites for potentially banning their operation is they’ve grown, but that is literally what the rules – and the Department of Transportation – are designed for. According to the government, they’re proceeding “in light of recent high-volume operations” but:

  • They step into a breach created by abdication of markets and product offerings of major airlines

  • The DOT is supposed to support abundant, safe, and efficient air travel.

There’s no logical reason for this proceeding, at this time, other than that the Air Line Pilots Association doesn’t like to see more co-pilots flying with fewer than 1,500 hours of training because it provides a paid path towards more commercial pilots, helping to address the pilot shortage which gives them leverage in negotiations.

The rule does nothing to promote safety since the hours can be racked up with the same clear air single engine takeoffs and landings from the same airports, rinse repeat. Hours can even be racked up in a hot air balloon. The balloon can even be tethered. The rule is just about creating a barrier of time and cost to become a pilot.

  • The Department of Transportation and NTSB have both said they see no correlation between co-pilot flight hours and safety.

  • Europe has maintained just as safe an operating environment as the U.S. without adopting a similar rule.

  • What the U.S. did at the same time as legislate the 1,500 hour rule for commercial airline co-pilots is also institute stricter pilot rest requirements that do, in fact, matter. Pilot fatigue is a real issue for safety.

While at JSX they have 30,000 hour captains mentoring sub-1,500 hour co-pilots. Their operations call for different experience than is needed to fly transoceanic in a widebody aircraft with hundreds of passengers. They’re flying 30 seat regional jets on largely one and two hour flights in and out of the same airports. You don’t need co-pilots relieving captains for hours at a time. These flights have among the most experience up front among domestic operations. And since 90% of their flights overnight at base, pilots mostly sleep in their own beds – far better for fatigue than at nearly all Part 121 carriers.

American Airlines joined ALPA (and other unions) in calling for JSX to be banned. They don’t like having a premium airline based in their home city of Dallas, employing many of their own retired senior captains and providing a competing product. I chose to fly JSX to Dallas even while I was an American Airlines ConciergeKey member because of the product they offer which I’ve found to be usually cheaper than American’s own premium fares.

JSX has been popular, and they’ve grown. That attracted the attention of ALPA and American Airlines, and the government now proposes to ban them for no other reason than this growth. They do not have safety concerns. It’s purely about changing regulatory definitions to eliminate flying that could serve small markets, and eliminate competition for a major airline. They want to shoot JSX (and by extension SkyWest Charter) dead because they offer too much value to passengers.

This effort is worthwhile to ALPA and American because,

  • They may kill a competitor
  • Even if they don’t, they distract the airline and cause it to burn cash on lawyers and lobbyists
  • And slow down growth, because facing uncertainty new capital expenses likely makes less sense – why spend millions converting planes they may not be allowed to continue operating?

The FAA is making clear that airlines are a cartel and that’s how they’re going to stay. That’s regulatory capture, by the major airlines and by the largest pilot union. And we shouldn’t put up with that in this country. The FAA is taking public comment and is legally required to consider what you have to say.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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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Comments

  1. What happened to free enterprise and the benefits of a competitive marketplace? Consumers are selecting! This article shows how close we are to slipping into the Socialist States of America. Many people freely accept these ideas today. This is clear government interference in a free market society.

  2. I agree 100% that JSX shouldn’t be bullied out of existence.

    I agree 99.9% that a pilot with 250 hours is equivalent to one with 1500.

    Redundancy is an integral principle of aircraft design and operations. Eliminating backup hardware systems, safety features, and countless procedures performed by ground and air-based personnel, could save lots of time and money, and 99.9% of the time would have no impact on flights .

    I agree

  3. To H with ALPA and American Airlines. If they are so afraid of competition, they should improve their dismal product. Yes to JSX and others!

  4. I really don’t understand this and probably never will; nevertheless, here are my layman’s thoughts.
    1. I never fly JSX and probably never will as it’s not where I go and I won’t get points, but it may attract crazy self-absorbed passengers who might otherwise fly sitting next to me, so I say let them have their own airline and let them be and leave me alone.
    2. I would prefer that the legacy airlines, the big alliance airlines, the excellent foreign airlines, etc., be allowed to join the JSX club and not ban JSX from their club.
    3. FAA obviously has oulived its usefulness to the American flying public. FAA staff obviously only care about their own retirement accounts and occasionally prepare for a staff promotion interview by creating hell for some airline.
    4. Apparently, USA flying is not as bad as UK flying, given the UK’s air traffic control computer failure the last few days. Is the failed UK system our closest competitior? Really?

  5. First, the weird flex for starlink is complete nonsense. While I have no idea if starlink is better than the wifi offered by other carriers, the notion that it’s better because it’s closer is absurd. Airlines fly at around 30k feet. Starlink satellites fly at around 1.8 million feet up. The ground (and the telcom towers on the ground) are WAY closer than those satellites in space, even in low Earth orbit.

    Second, the issue isn’t that they can get away with the lower regulations because they have fewer passengers. The issues is that they are – per the FAQs on their own website – getting away with lower regulations by flying as charter flights instead of regularly scheduled flights. They found a loop hole by legally being two separate companies, the first selling tickets to regularly scheduled flights that they are unable to operate, and the second being technically a charter company that the first company charters to fulfill the flight it scheduled.

    They are using a regulation originally created for small groups of passengers that all know each other and are flying as one group. JSX found a loop hole allowing them to use thatbsame regulation outside of its intended or written purpose. While one small company using a loop hole might just require a little extra scrutiny over that company to make sure they are being safe, when a bunch of companies start using the loop hole the burden on regulators to provide that added scrutiny for everyone becomes to much and needs to be closed off.

    I’m not going to comment on if the current regulations on other airlines are too high. That’s an irrelevant red herring to this. Rediculous or not those regulations add a significant government mandated expense to the operations of most airlines. To give one airline a free pass to avoid those costs that the government is forcing on everyone else isn’t a free market or a company just being innovative. It’s one company using a government loophole to create an unfair government mamdated advantage in the market place.

    I usually enjoy View From the Wing, but these onesided JSX appologist articles fall way short of honest journalism. I’m not saying the regulations on pilots shouldn’t be changed or that there aren’t some clear financial gains for those advoating for them to stay as they are, but presenting a company using a loophole to evade them as being under attack when the government tries to close that loophole is just not honest.

  6. I’ve flown JSX with the family this past summer and one of the perks that made me choose them over the big airlines other than the price was being able to bring my dog on board. Of course she was leashed and everything. They were extremely accommodating to the other pet owners too so I will probably fly with them again.

  7. I dream of a day where my kids or grandkids will have an AI pilot… Problem solved. Thank you for this interesting article

  8. Part 380 is for “charter carriers.”

    JSX is acting as a scheduled carrier, i.e., a Part 121 carrier just like WN, DL, AA and UA.

    It should be required to follow the same regulations as the majors.

    If you want to have a discussion on what the pilot training requirements should be, that is really a different subject.

    As a private pilot with a CE-525 rating, I will tell you that 250-hours does not produce a pilot. It produces a button pusher.

  9. I love the comments from folks “they seem like X, so they should follow X rules” that do not even pretend to make the argument that there is a safety reason for changing the rules to put a perfectly legal air carrier out of business.

  10. Perfect example of corruption in our government, 2 way DOJ system, and big business special interests worried about and kicked the small business owners out of competition. These acts should be criminalized and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. All persons involved from FAA, politicians, big business, regulators, and accomplices should be fined heavily and do lengthy prison terms in hell!!

  11. What’s wrong American, can’t stand the heat in the kitchen. They (JSX) isn’t doing anything wrong. All they are doing is creating a niche in an area where your larger Boeing 737s and 767s cannot fly. They go to the much smaller airfields that you cannot make any money at. Let’s call it what we will. You all balked and whined like the bullies you are when the founder of Jet Blue came onto the tarmac and shook up the industry. The same man who you are wishing to beat on the play ground, because his business is better than yours

  12. Let’s not forget this is a blog and not a legitimate, fact based news organization. The writer has blogged his opinion and it is not necessarily supported by widely held beliefs or facts. Also, the comments here are, not withstanding some industry professionals who have opinions too – albeit based on experience, opinions, based on one’s own experiences.
    This particular subject, just from a safety standpoint, regardless of market forces, is very complicated and has many facets which require a great deal of knowledge which bloggers and blog readers likely do not possess.
    The answer to JSX and similar operations should likely be left to industry and regulatory professionals.

  13. I have flown JSX twice. It was the most relaxing, efficient, calm, high value flights that I have had in a very long time!

    Why airlines, especially American Airlines wants to get their panties in a bunch over this small regional airline makes me very angry. And the fact that the FAA is in collusion with the Pilot Association and major airlines to potentially ban JSX and others is such an overreach of corporate America and their cronies in the agencies that are supposed to promote expanded & safe air travel.

    After you have flown, JSX, you will not want to go back to the major airlines. JSX understands customer service, and customer comfort on their flights.

  14. @Stephen

    “First, the weird flex for starlink is complete nonsense. While I have no idea if starlink is better than the wifi offered by other carriers, the notion that it’s better because it’s closer is absurd. Airlines fly at around 30k feet. Starlink satellites fly at around 1.8 million feet up. The ground (and the telcom towers on the ground) are WAY closer than those satellites in space, even in low Earth orbit.”

    This isn’t how SATCOM works. Look up latency in low earth orbit vs. geosynchronous orbit and you might have your answer. A major factor in why Starlink is faster/better than other satellite internet because it’s literally closer. The average round-trip latency for LEO satellites is about 5-10 times lower than GEO satellites. There are actually a number of other advantages about proliferated LEO constellations compared to GEO.

    Ground based systems like GoGo, even their 5G aviation product, have been made generally redundant by both GEO/LEO SATCOM because of their inherent coverage limits. Gary’s “flex” is actually spot on.

    The rest of your comment is as well researched as the starlink riff, but you’re entitled to your own political opinions about regulations, just not engineering.

  15. A few comments have somewhat correctly pointed out that JSX is operating under a loophole. Let’s reframe that argument: JSX has a business plan which is tailored to a loophole. They would find another loophole if needed/allowed. We simply focus on this one because it’s the one they currently use. The root isn’t this loophole. The root is a (seemingly) successful business plan designed to serve an underserved market segment. IE they likely didn’t start out saying “here’s a regulatory gap, how can we exploit it to make a good business plan?” It was more likely “here’s a good business plan, is there a regulatory gap we can exploit?”

  16. A typical article from a know-nothing blogger. The Part 121 regulations exist because we have learned, through very painful experience, what happens when poorly trained pilots fly scheduled airlines. Don’t point to foreign airlines, either, because there are many, many examples of crashes caused by poorly trained pilots. Watch a few seasons of “Air Disasters” on the Smithsonian Channel and you’ll understand the difference between well trained and poorly trained pilots.

    I’m not a commercial pilot, but I do have about 700 hours of pilot time, and I know that 250 hours is just a starting point.

  17. Thank You For This Article Gary The 1500 Rule Is Modern Day Slavery.
    I Got Litter Message For You Union Pilot People When Your Flying Your 737 Or Whatever Look Down
    At The Roads Yes I’m Talking About Trucks 18 Wheelers The Ones Keep This Country Moving We Make Sure We Keep This Country Moving And We Make Sure We Keep The Grocery’s Stores Gas Station And Airports All Over This Country Full With Jet Fuel And Food So You Pilot Union People Keep Flying Your Airplanes Us Truck Drivers Spent Crap Ton Time On The Roads So You Pilot Union People Need To Be Grateful And Stop All The Nonsense 1500 Hours Is Ridiculous Stupid And Disgusting You Can Not Run Airlines Like A Trucking Company You All Gonna Run The Airline Industry To The Ground.

  18. Why should JSX be allowed to bypass TSA? That’s the biggest issue I have with it. They are random people on a plane without TSA, why should they get that exception over a ML carrier ?

  19. @Brandon S – there are not ‘random people’ on a plane, they do ID verification and matching against the same targeting databases. Every carry on bag is swiped. People fly through FBOs without TSA every day. **Airport security is not the FAA’s jurisdiction** and is not used as an argument in the notice of proposed rulemaking. TSA has not expressed concern with JSX’s procedures.

  20. @Andrew D Ostrom – Europe has as strong a safety record as the U.S. without this rule. Please explain exactly why a co-pilot running up hours in a tethered balloon drives safety, when the FAA and NTSB have both said that it does not?

  21. So y’all would be happy to buy an van without airbags if half the seats were removed? Yep, most people will never get to use their expensive airbag. Yep, cars would be cheaper without them. But, that’s exactly what JSX et. al. are doing. Two fully ATP rated pilots ensure passenger safety – that’s why rue was implemented. Taking 20 seats out of a jet doesn’t make it any easier to fly, or make the airspace any less conjested or safer.

  22. “For example, with a creative use of 14 C.F.R. Part 380, one company, Indigo, at one point was providing “regular and frequent service” that consisted of four daily flights between Midway (Chicago) and Teterboro (NewJersey), and was doing so utilizing a Part 135 On-Demand carrier.”

    “Indigo facilitated these flights as an “indirect air carrier” under Part 380 with authorization from the Department of Transportation (DOT). Indigo’s role was to deal directly with the public, selling the seats on each flight through its website, the Sabre reservation system, and through travel agents. All the while Air-Serv, Indigo’s “sister company”, the entity that held the Part 135 certificate, provided the actual operation of the aircraft. Both Indigo and Air-Serv were owned by New World Holdings in Chicago.”

    The excerpt above is from the Journal of Air Law and Commerce….

    ….dated Spring 2004.

    Indigo/Air-Serv received from the DoT its certificate of public convenience & authorization for interstate transport in August 2000. (DOT-OST-2000-7232-0012)

    Indigo/Air-Serv submitted its DoT application to engage in interstate CHARTER air transport in April 2000. However, the application clearly states its intent to operate as a Part 135/Part 380 entity. Further, a summary description of the business plan (‘Narrative Service Proposal’) is presented – aircraft type for operations, proposed fleet growth, and potential route network for SCHEDULED SERVICE. (DOT-OST-2000-7232-0001)

    https://www.regulations.gov/document/DOT-OST-2000-7232-0001

    The information above is presented to demonstrate that rules pertaining to Part 135/Part 380 in scheduled operation (i.e. JSX, SkyWest Charters, Contour, etc.) have been in plain sight for years. Particularly several years before there was a JetSuite/JSX.

    The commenter above @Josh makes a salient point that I’ll paraphrase here – if there is a loophole, the loophole lies in the regulatory framework of one government entity (FAA) being responsible for the safety component of public conveyance in aviation, and another (DoT) being responsible for the economic component of public conveyance in aviation.

    Unfortunate the use of the word “loophole” in the context that other commenters have applied. It’s suggestive of a nefarious, malintentioned, and “legal, but illegal” connotation.

    If ever there was a high-profile industry that has been rife with regulatory loopholes – that eventually were exploited by innovation – its been the airline industry. Think Kenny Friedkin (PSA), Herb Kelleher & Rollin King, Freddie Laker, Fred Smith (Federal Express)….American’s & United’s push to automate travel agencies…the Northwest Airlines/KLM (Wings) alliance….as well as lesser known individuals/entities/events that have been contributors to the industry.

  23. The simple way to solve this is to bring the small operators up to the same level of safety at the part 121 carriers. That’s why we are here!
    Ask the families of the Colgan Air Flight 3407 if there was a different level of experience of the pilots involved in the flight that their family members that perished were on.
    There was! I can tell you as a 23 year Captain with thousand hours and thousands of first officers. As a Captain 250 hour is not enough. I would say 1500 hours is barely enough for public scheduled air transport. We have to incorporate lowest common denominators. If we are going to make a rule.

  24. @Scott – there’s no suggestion that JSX operates at a lower level of safety, or that SkyWest Charter would.

    The Colgan Air co-pilot had over 2000 hours. Europe is just as safe without the 1,500 hour rule. A third of those hours can be racked up in a tethered hot air balloon. The 1,500 hour requirement has zero to do with safety.

  25. JSX has brought back affordable first class service that has been missing from American for a long time. That American is now going to the FAA to try to rewrite the rules is ridiculous. All because they are scared of a little competition. I love the fact the I can make a choice to fly any carrier and I will choose JSX every time over American. For the reasons of service, friendly staff, ease of flights, safety, and convenience to name a few. You go JSX and let me know what I can do to help.

  26. So, really, because you believe in competition, you’re actually asking for the majors to be allowed to operate as Part 135, right? It has to be a level playing field…all scheduled carriers should operate under the same rule.

  27. I absolutely agree with the supportive comments for JSX.
    Let them go and create their own success or not. But at least with the proper oversight, not over regulation and uncalled for harassment, the consumers and proper corporate management will determine the success or failure of JSX.
    Thank you for this very needed forum allowing our comments. All the best. Rob R.

  28. Please allow JSX to be managed with the proper oversight, not over regulation and harassment specifically directed at JSX.
    They will be allowed to succeed or fail, of their doing, by excellent corporate management, safe
    operations handled appropriately. Finally, as it should be, the consumer will ultimately determine JSX’s outcome. I will repeat, following proper safety and proper government regulations, I believe and support JSX, their employees, especially
    excellent management along with their consumers to achieve what they deserve.
    All the best for all.
    Thank you for this necessary forum to freely express our beliefs and opinions.
    Rob Robbins

  29. @Scott – “The simple way to solve this is to bring the small operators up to the same level of safety at the part 121 carriers. That’s why we are here!”

    Well….no….the suggestion that safety is compromised in a 135/380 operation is a stalking horse for the real reason – ALPA doesn’t like the prospect of ‘B’ scale pilot wages at regional air carriers.

    But, lets say DoT follows your suggestion to “bring up” the small operators to 121 standards. Two problems off the top of my head: (1) Mandatory retirement age of 65 will then apply. (And, apparently, some of the 135/380 operators have former 121 captains that were forced to retire.) (2) The minimum flight hour requirement for the cockpit – 1500 hours – would then apply.

    Those two examples alone compound existing issues – pilot shortages AND pilot recruitment – for the small operators.

    Anecdotally, sounds like your “solution” closes down at least some of the small operators.

  30. I only fly Delta, Comfort+ and above.

    I have no problem with the JSX model… apparently neither does Amex as it is an option as a benefit on the card.

    But I refuse to fly AA or UA. JUST PLAIN AWFUL! I’d take SW or JB over those two.

  31. JSX is a $$show. It is neither private nor safe. I have no doubt someone gets mad money on endorsements from them lease refute in print. Atty will that denial up, so we won’t hear one.

  32. Maybe I’m way off base here, but isn’t JFX essentially just EAS without the federal tax subsidies ?
    Hasn’t the FAA been pushing for decades to show that eventually some of Airline Deregulation’s bad effects would be mitigated by some new for profit passenger air transportation services concept?

  33. The pilots Union…
    The Teachers Union…
    And the myriad of other unions will be the death of us all.
    Makes the U.S. uncompetitive, and creates massive costs that otherwise would not be there.

  34. I hope no one who is worried about this pilot issue ever gets into an Uber driving 75 mph down a highway in a vehicle that has not been inspected in perhaps a year , driver may have passed one test ten years ago , no co-pilot and zero security. Taxis made the same arguments against Uber. So be consistent and always call yellow cab and not Uber unless it’s Uber black.

  35. For me JSX is best, i get the service that I pay for no long wait no attitude of employees and no bag damage or bag missing. I appreciate all their efforts and dedication to make our fly easy and comfortable. I don’t like rude attitude of American Airlines and others. Mostly the luggage is missing or damaged by this big airlines and their customer service is terrible. Let people have choices and safe their time

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