Over 20,000 People Have Complained To The FAA About Attempts To Put JSX Out Of Business

The FAA is considering a rule to treat public charters the same way as large commercial airlines, rewriting rules going back 30 years. This would mean that co-pilots for carriers like JSX and the proposed SkyWest Charter could only employ co-pilots with 1,500 hours of training (whether in a tethered hot air balloon or otherwise) and JSX wouldn’t be able to fly from private terminals.

JSX emailed all of their customers asking them to comment on the FAA’s proposed rulemaking. Over 20,000 people filed comments to oppose these changes. Does that matter?

  • The FAA statutorily has to consider each comment in its rulemaking process. 20,000 comments to work through is a lot – more than commented on the FAA’s emotional support animal rule, fewer than commented on drones (which set the record).

  • However the FAA won’t actually consider each comment individually. They will use software to group these comments, and will more or less waive them away in their written analysis (e.g. “99% of comments were submitted by consumers who value the product offered by certain public charter operators, but we must first consider safety implications”).

  • Put another way, in practice they don’t always follow the law to consider each comment. Instead they consider comments like this as a bundle.

In other words, substantively these comments doesn’t matter as the FAA considers a rule. Politically it could matter.

  • The rulemaking is happening now because of the big unions who don’t want flights operating with pilots that are outside of their hard-fought occupational licensing rules and because of pressure from Southwest and American who don’t want Dallas-based competition.

  • The Biden FAA felt like they could not ignore a union campaign like this, especially one (disingenuously) framing its arguments around safety. There’s an effort not to rock union boats heading into the election.

  • In a world of concentrated benefits (to ALPA and American) and disperses costs (to consumers) it was likely that rule changes would go largely unnoticed in the larger world. The administration might adopt a rule, please those making noise, and not face consequences from low-information voters. Over 20,000 comments on an obscure rule signals that calculation may not hold.

Since the rulemaking is happening in and driven by a political context, seeing a lot of people willing to take the time to express an opinion suggests the rulemaking can’t just pay off ALPA and American without also bearing costs.

Uber, which actually operated illegally in many cities, was able to grow because customers were enthusiastic and turned out to let politicians know they’d be held accountable if they gave in to the taxi lobby. JSX is entirely legal. SkyWest Charter is entirely legal, and would help sustain air service to small cities. And there’s a base of customers who care. Are they single issue voters? Probably most of them aren’t. Is it enough to get the FAA to de-prioritize the issue? Perhaps not. But it’s still a signal that goes into decision-making.

For a longer discussion of the issues, I co-authored a regulatory comment submitted to FAA that deals with the various complexities of what they’re considering.

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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  1. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.

    JSX is trying to take advantage of a regulation which was not originally intended to apply to a scheduled air carrier.

    It simply is not an on demand charter carrier when they have a published schedule.

    All ducks should be treated the same and JSX should be required to comply with the same regulations as other scheduled carriers.

    Gary will whine about ATP requirements, but they are what they are. JSX should not be allowed to unfairly compete with the majors.

    They should all be treated the same.

  2. @1KBrad – + 1

    If JSX wants to operate a schedule service, let it comply with the regs for a scheduled airline, not use a loophole. OR, lobby to change the law. I don’t disagree with Gary that 1500 hours makes flying safer, but there are reasons (that have been pointed out in the comments before) why some rules apply to scheduled airlines, some to charters, and others to private planes. These rules have nothing to do with competition, as Gary believes, rather with risk acceptance. JSX should lobby to change the law. Otherwise, AA and Southwest are will within their rights to ask the FAA to enforce the spirit of the law.

  3. @Gary. OK, I believe I have said here before that I lobbied for my company on Capitol Hill some years ago.
    I *ASSUME* someone is advising JSX, but I am surprised they have not utilized what is today known as Grassroots Advocacy Software. This software allows constituents to send an e-mail, with text you sent them (i.e., your message) to their US Senators and Representatives. Best to target relevant committee members first, but……..
    This would then allow JSX lobbyists and representatives to visit Hill offices (where, if you ever do this, you will swiftly realize our legislatures are run by teenagers — literally), give them the names of their constituents who have written to them and ask for support. It’s very powerful. 20,000 e-mails (60K actually.. two Senators and one US Rep) is a lot. Done properly the whole rulemaking would be DOA.
    And that’s without the JSX Hill Day which would be fun to set up, especially if JSX flew a few contingents in to troll the halls of the House and Senate.
    This ain’t hard to kill, but sadly most CEOs don’t know their ass from their elbow when it comes to working the Hill.

  4. Woofie- They are using software that identified my representatives and filed comments to the FAA. I’m not sure where Gary got the information that 20,000 were opposed, but I know at least one from the JSX site wants to leave the rules in place. So maybe it’s 20,000 total but 18,000 in favor. I don’t know.

  5. @JorgeGeorge Paez-
    I’m a former pilot who is now a passenger. My kids didn’t follow in my footsteps so I have no other motive than safe air transportation. I have worldwide experience as well as regional and private flying. I see no advantage for my family sitting as passengers by reducing the 750/1500 hour rule. I guess I am selfish by wanting to do what in my opinion is the best for safety.
    What is your unselfish reason for wanting this to change?

  6. 1500hrs min doesn’t make flying safer then 800hrs min. 1500 rule came form the New York crash where pilot rest was a bigger factor and both pilots had over 1500 so it was mute point. 1500 was just used to appease the families of victims. And now it’s used to make the pilot numbers hard to fill and union pay negotiations more favorable for airline pilots due to the demand for pilots being slow to fill due to 1500 requirements. Most these pilots came under 250 rule and didn’t have any problems getting a job or safety concerns flying with others with less then 1500.
    JSX will be one of a few options I plan to pursue to get up to the ridiculous 1500 hrs

  7. Wow. It’s actually now 41,784 comments that have been received by the FAA. Nearly 25,000 have been posted to regulations.gov so far. There won’t be more than 10 total supporting the change.

  8. I’m a 20 year EXP on American, but I fly JSX often. I’m a fan of anything that provides more choice and does so safely. In my experience, JSX does both. I also believe the 1500 hour rule to be arbitrary. If someone wants to show me a ton of data why US pilots are so much safer than EU and other pilots with 750 or 800 hour rules, I’m game. Until then, feels like a union scam.

  9. I was involved in notice and comment rulemaking for some time, but glad I’m not involved as generative AI ramps up…”Hey ChatGPT, write me a comment on the JSX FAA rulemaking in the style of a 45-year old traveling salesperson who dislikes United”…woof…

  10. @Gonzo
    The “1500” rule can be reduced to 750 hours. And the EASA flight training is quite different than the US. I don’t think you would see any airline wanting to go to these standards. It’s more intense and costly.

  11. @Gary
    I think you meant you don’t think many oppose the change. I agree with you but JSX has targeted that response. More of a marketing job than public opinion. And I’m sure you know that if it was worded differently the response might change. If the FAA goes by number of comments they’ll change it.

  12. The crux of this whole debate is over a definition of a “scheduled” flight. Let’s say the FAA changes the rules and the “loophole” gets plugged. What is going to stop a charter airline from having an app that live tracks all their flights showing an accurate ETA and ETD from airports allowing passengers to hop on like an Uber unscheduled? Are we going to be going around in circles debating about “safety” again. When there is a market demand, innovative companies will always disrupt the status quo. It’s also worthwhile noting, some of the most innovative companies in the US are not unionised.

  13. Then let’s abolish codeshares and wet-leases while we’re at it. JSX is not doing anything wrong. We have a capitalistic corporate society that allows companies to do crazy things with their business structures (pass-throughs, holding companies, subsidiaries, LLCs, etc etc). So JSX having one own and distribute the schedule while having another actually operate the plane is only an issue if you look at from ALPA/AA/WN’s selfish vacuum POV.

    The 1500 hour rule had ZERO basis in safety (both pilots in the Colgan crash were over this number, they lacked rest was the issue). So don’t kid yourself this has anything to do with safety. Unions…::eyeroll::

  14. Gary this is silly you beg lie and cry for JSX. Why don’t you be honest and disclose dollar amount they pay you. Can tell you I for one had a negative review for them…

  15. @Chase
    If the FAA decides in favor of JSX, why shouldn’t every airline be able to have the same flight time and security requirements? Why should other airlines have higher standards if they are safe?

  16. @DA Pilot every airline already has the same flight time and security requirements. Nothing prevents them from running part 380 flights and competing head to head with JSX. They don’t want to, which is fine, but they don’t want JSX to be able to either even though JSX is compliant with the regulations.

    The real question is if part 380 requirements are good enough for a charter then why aren’t they good enough for scheduled operations as well? Presumably the answer is that it’s Ok for charters to be less safe (not that it’s clear they are) in the name of choice. So why isn’t JSX just another choice? The FAA could just require part 380 operators to disclose the difference between their operations and part 121 and let the passenger decide. That’s really the situation today for anyone setting up a charter anyway.

  17. A small startup business, competing with mega corporations, should “lobby to change the law?” Absolute insanity in the comments. The law already says, this is LEGAL. Why should a small business have a rule changed to completely screw ONLY their business model, and then be responsible for the bill of paying off politicians to undo this change?

    To people saying this is unfair to big airlines: NOTHING is stopping big airlines from following this same rule! They just know it’s more profitable to kill competition than to join and innovate. If they can let the government do that job for them for free, that’s even better.

    If you think this isn’t the big airlines don’t the least work (destroying competition) for the most profit, you’re a fool. They are financially obligated to do this.

    Obscene that tax dollars are being spent wasting time on this to appease these airline companies. Which were also bailed out with your tax dollars 🙂

  18. Changing the rule isn’t going to make flying safer…it is going to kill these carriers because they won’t be able to find enough pilots with the required flight hours.

    They already have OUTSTANDING flying and maintenance records, better than the big airlines. The only reason I see for needing the extra hours in the larger jets is because you are literally affecting more lives with the larger passenger manifests.

    Not only will this affect the smaller companies like JSX but now there will ALSO be fewer rated pilots for the larger airlines who are complaining about the competition…because the way they get many of those rated pilots is because the pilots got their training/experience at the smaller companies.

    These larger airlines and the FAA will be shooting themselves in the foot by doing this. There will need to be different pathways developed for getting the necessary flight hours or there will be huge shortages of new rated pilots.

    The FAA needs to really look at the smaller airlines’ safety records to help in determining if changes need to be made, and the record shows there isn’t currently a safety problem so there is no need to make changes right now.

  19. @J smith – for avoidance of doubt I have never been paid by JSX or any other entity that benefits from current law here. Let me be further clear, as I’ve written here in the past, that when I attended their media day I covered my own flights and made a donation to charity for any benefits received, as I do with other carriers and with hotel chains etc.

  20. I’m writing to express my support for the 20,000 people who have complained to the FAA about attempts to put JSX out of business. I’m a frequent JSX customer, and I’ve been very impressed with their service. Their flights are always on time, and their staff is friendly and helpful.

  21. Appreciate the timely response. It is just bizarre how much you pontificate for JSX while normally giving rational responses for any other company. Makes things tough to believe.

  22. @J Smith – I wrote about my interest here – a clear case of regulatory capture to benefit incumbent airlines and to impose high barriers to entry into the pilot profession, which limits air travel accessibility. I have zero brief for JSX as such – though I think they offer a unique, quality product – I have a beef with rent-seeking.

  23. the FAA can and will source where the comments are coming from.
    It isn’t a surprise that the biggest impact will come from markets where JSX operates including North Texas where AA and WN are both headquartered and both oppose JSX.

    Many people can’t grasp that JSX is using lower seat counts on aircraft – just as Skywest is proposing to do.

    There already ARE lower pilot requirements for smaller aircraft in the US and that is not going to change.

    What some people can’t grasp is that JSX and Skywest charter are willing to take seats OFF of planes which ALPA hated, increase the level of service, and have lower pilot training requirements, even if they don’t use those requirements.

    The solution is to allow limited, capacity specific exemptions. If innovative airlines can get more revenue from their model than regional airlines can get on the same jets with more seats flying for the network airlines, then the innovators SHOULD be allowed to compete.

    DA Pilit.
    the standard is not whether anyone gains or loses an advantage but whether there is evidence that lower standards for one pilot harms safety – which is ALL the FAA should consider.
    You and others can’t grasp that many countries have lower requirements for some pilots on much larger jets and those airline operations are just as safe as those in the US.

    This issue all comes down to ALPA and pilot unions protecting future salaries.

    Just as with the current UAW strike, all that “winning” will do is ensure that production is moved elsewhere.

    If ALPA “wins” this battle about JSX, the push for reduced cockpit staffing on longhaul airliners will only acclerate.

  24. I always laugh at the arguments over pilot training. Is it that hard to believe more training equals less errors? Lawyers 6000 hours of training, ie law school. And then we are arguing about 750 or 1500 hours for someone that may or may not have a college education to be in charge of dozens or hundreds of people. I think people need perspective.

  25. @Steve-
    I guess we will have to see if the FAA decides that JSX is an on-demand charter airline or a scheduled airline. And as J Smith posted, it makes no sense to reduce hours. I’ve flown over 100 hours in a month. When FAR 135 rules were different I flew 120 hours in a 14 day stretch. A pilot who wants to get a better job soon has the opportunity to do so, and I don’t agree with Gary that these are junk hours.

  26. J Smith,
    and yet and others can’t tell us what the minimum number of hours that is necessary to safely operate an aircraft based on facts and data.
    A job such as a lawyer has nothing to do with the skill required to pilot an aircraft.

    When you can tell us how foreign airlines can manage to hire some pilots with less than 1500 hours and still safely operate, we’ll listen.

    Until then, the safety argument you and others use is nothing but a noisy attempt to keep the pilot pool from being expanded to more people

  27. Irrelevant to above, but JSX moved operations from SAN to CLD last week. My understanding is that they were operating from the charter flight area and there was insufficient space, whereas CLD is a lovely small airport that sits empty. Further, I understand they wanted to provide service that did not require TSA screening. That could not be done if they moved to the main terminals at SAN whereas it could be offered at CLD.

  28. @ Tim Dunn

    Since you say nobody can say what the proper number of hours to operate an aircraft is, why would you want to reduce it to a number that might compromise safety? Even Gary really has no idea other than he wants it reduced. To what number? How does he come up with that? Any restrictions on the type of hours?

    And since you say you will listen if someone tells you how foreign airlines do it, here’s the answer: EASA training is more like a US Ab Initio program. It is more structured and I agree with Gary that it is better flight time and therefore can be reduced to 750 hours. But I disagree with Gary that 1500 hours are junk.

    Most of the people commenting here are not pilots and really don’t seem to know what the job entails. As a passenger who has over 30,000 hours in the cockpit, I am not in favor of any further reductions. And I see no rationale for allowing different security for this operation. If the FAA/TSA determines they meet safety requirements, all airlines should be allowed to switch. I don’t see that happening.

  29. I’ve never taken JSX and actually don’t find the product appealing at all. That said, I’d love nothing more than sticking it to the clowns here who are against it, putting their own biased interests before those of the general public. Keep sticking up for big business, they couldn’t care less about you.

  30. No Tim, lawyer and pilot are not the same. One is just in charge of alot more lives with less training. I’m sensing someone does not have critical reading skills. Lol

  31. @DA Pilit: They conveniently forget that one who graduates from an approved school can obtain a restricted ATP with 1,000 hours and a military pilot with 750-hours.

    They also forget that a flight deck is supposed to be equal partnership cross-checking on each other–not an experienced pilot teaching a new pilot.

    They really have no idea.

  32. The 380 expedition was never intended for this purpose. JSX are running a full scale regional airline and pretending it’s a charter op. It is not. They hold out to the public as a scheduled air carrier but then do not follow the rules all scheduled carriers are required to follow for public safety. They are avoiding the pilot experience and training requirements, dispatch regulations, and duty regs required of all other scheduled airlines. They are side-stepping TSA screening requirements. Either we think the FAR-121 rules and TSA screening are sensible and needed for Public safety, or we do not.

    Change the rules for everyone or make everyone follow them. Having a couple operators do an end-run around the regs that everyone else has to follow is unacceptable, and yes reduces safety.

    – Part 135 DO / Safety Director, ex 121 PIC

  33. @DO Mark – it’s not clear FAA has the statutory authority to alter the rules as-proposed. “Change the rules for everyone or make everyone follow them.” Why? For it’s own sake? To protect the large incumbent airlines?

  34. The rules apply to charter carriers–not scheduled airlines.

    Do you really want to argue that JSX is not a scheduled airline?

    Since when do we allow new entrants to unfairly compete with established businesses by holding them to more liberal laws?

  35. This is protectionism, pure and simple. AA and WN didn’t care until JSX starting taking business-class passengers away from their operations (and WN is based at DAL…across the runway from JSX).

    I don’t see AA or WN attempting the same “regulate-out-of-existence” strategy with Contour. They operate the same business model, flying the same jets with the same experience requirements. You know why not? Because Contour is an AA partner and moves AA passengers.

    Someone Google Legend Airlines, a small premium airline based at DAL that offered the same model as JSX (except for higher-capacity jets and part 121). AA and WN ran them out of existence, and it ended up in court (which AA won, because they’re the big dog who greases the wheels).

    Nobody has been complaining about Cape Air, operating under the same Part 135 rules as JSX, Contour, and SkyWest (sked charter) since 1989. And the kicker is…they operate SINGLE pilot.

    ALL airlines are free to compete. AA could run EMB-135/145 aircraft all day from DAL, if they leased gate space. They won’t spend the money to start the operation, though…instead, it’s easier to raise the “safety” flag and attempt to regulate JSX out of existence.

    The major airlines are upset that a company like JSX (and Contour, SkyWest) is flying the regs to the letter of the law…”finding loopholes.” Ask any pilot group which major airline doesn’t use the Letter of the Law aka “loopholes” when it sharpshoots contracts with it’s employees. You’ll see shrugs when challenged about “spirit of the contract.”

    Let JSX fly. They have a customer base, and a seemingly-successful business model and operation. The pilots’ unions don’t have to worry…JSX pilots will be jumping ship to the majors as soon as they are eligible. NO small company can pay it’s pilots what the Big 3 are now paying.

  36. ALPA fights age 67 then tries to put recent retirees out of work. It shameful and emberassing. JSX is operating legally within the rules that have existed for decades. ALPA should stick to improving pilot contracts (something they have failed miserably at for 23yrs) not doing managements dirty work for them.

  37. @Donald R Linrothe: Is JSX an on demand charter carrier or a scheduled airline?

    If the latter, and they are, then they are not operating within the rules.

  38. Jsx, like others have stated, publish and schedule and need to follow what other carriers follow for commercial flights. Simple.

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