Quit Saying JSX Exploits A Loophole Just Because They Offer Passengers A Better Product

JSX figured out a way to offer passengers a better flight experience at a lower cost. They have all first class seats, free drinks (and on longer flights, packaged snacks and meals), and free StarLink wifi.

Checked bags are free, and they depart and land at private terminals. Passengers show up just 20 minutes prior to departure.

  • They’re a charter carrier, operating with just 30 seats. That allows them to use private terminals.

    You don’t queue at TSA or schlep through mega-terminals, and can arrive just 20 minutes before your flight. (You still go through security screening prior to boarding, bags are screened and passenger names checked against government watchlists.)

  • And this allows them access to more pilots – they can use co-pilots building up their hours to go fly for a major airline (since they aren’t subject to the 1,500 hour rule for co-pilots) and recently-retired captains from American Airlines and Southwest (since they aren’t subject to 65 year old mandatory retirement).

JSX offers a convenient, friendly service that feels more like what air travel could be. There are many customer evangelists. Competitors do not like that they are delivering a product that customers prefer.

Airline pilot unions don’t like that they aren’t subject to hard-won occupational licensing restrictions that have driven up pilot wages, and American and Southwest don’t like that they can offer a premium product that customers want, siphoning away business.

One of the primary lines of attack is to claim to the government that JSX’s business “exploits a loophole” and therefore should be closed.

This is framed as being done in the name of safety, of course, though no real safety issue exists. Naturally they say their advocacy is for the public interest, rather than self-interest (though American admitted to employees their real motives).

But a ‘loophole’ is something that is expressly legal until it’s used in a way we dislike – or in this case, something that airline competitors and unions don’t like. The common connotation of loophole is some sort of mistake or drafting accident that’s being exploited.

However what JSX and others do by operating charter flights under FAA part 135, and selling individual seats on those flights under Part 380, is not actually a loophole. The linkage between parts 135 and 380 in regulations is actually intentional.

As Stephen Jonesyoung and I documented in our submission on the FAA’s intent to initiate a rulemaking to amend 14 CFR 110 by removing part 380 definitions in 14 CFR 110.2 and delink FAA’s Safety regulations from DOT’s economic regulations,

  • The FAA published a notice of proposed rulemaking on February 3, 1997, to make editorial and other changes in Parts 21, 25, 91, 119, 121, and 135 to correct “mistakes” in the Commuter Operations rule from 1995.

  • The FAA expressly identified one mistake as failing to link to Part 380 in the definitions of “on-demand operation,” “scheduled operation,” and “supplemental operation.” The FAA stated in its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that the intent is to make clear that public charter operations are not considered scheduled operations and therefore would not be affected by the original Commuter Operations Rule.

  • The final rule reported that no comments were received on this technical correction. This was not controversial. The proposed language was adopted.

  • The FAA’s intent from the commuter rule was not to apply Part 121 rules to public charter operators, because the FAA identified its 1995 text which appeared to do as being expressly mistaken.

This was not an oversight or a loophole. From the FAA’s description, it concluded that the safety issues present for commuter carriers were not similarly present for public charter carriers and/or that the FAA did not have the legal authority to alter the regulations to public charters under the proposed rule.

In fact, both may be the case, as what the FAA proposed to do to impose more onerous rules on carriers like JSX, Contour and others is likely precluded by 49 USC 41104 which states that,

The Secretary of Transportation may prescribe a regulation or issue an order restricting the marketability, flexibility, accessibility, or variety of charter air transportation provided under a certificate issued under section 41102 of this title only to the extent required by the public interest. A regulation prescribed or order issued under this subsection may not be more restrictive than a regulation related to charter air transportation that was in effect on October 1, 1978.

Congress was expressly clear in deregulating commercial airlines that they wanted to preserve a robust space for charter operations, and the FAA created rules expressly linking part 380 and 135 which creating the opportunity to pursue the JSX business model. This isn’t a loophole, it’s a way of delivering a better product at a reasonable price. And that’s a threat to entrenched interests, so they’re trying to get the government to protect them from it.

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. Delta uses a loophole to offer Sky Pesos instead of miles. American uses a loophole to make it hard to fly standby. Both should be out out of business?

  2. Queue the union shills who will proclaim we’re all going to die on JSX planes in 3…2…1…

  3. They are skimming real premium pax from the big 3. That really hurts the bottom line but if I was a corp exec in a company that wasn’t big enough to own one or two of their own birds this would be a go to. 20 minutes before wheels up, I could do that !!

  4. The more I read about this company the more it really seems to be a fly by night operation. I’ll pass.

  5. You describe the benefit as not having to go through TSA. However, my understanding is that those things captured by your photo are body scanners and that they use the same MMW as TSA body scanners [please correct me if I am wrong].

    I prefer going through a metal detector with precheck over a body scanner where one cannot opt-out as in the photo.

    I do not understand why people have issues with TSA body scanners but no issue with the type of body scanners in the photo that you posted. Evolv’s using body scanners made me disappointed, and made me no longer see any type of benefit from not going through the TSA.

  6. As you posted Gary, this rule was amended in 1997. The security rules for FAR Part 121 have been changed since this date. So why not update 135/380 as well? If 121 passengers need a certain level of security, don’t 135/380?
    And regulations change almost every month. Boeing is a good example. What they were allowed to do at one time was found to require a change.

  7. @guflyer the benefit is not having to QUEUE

    @DA Pilit – go to Congress to amend the law so that DOT can more heavily regulate but there is no clear reason to do so. TSA is getting involved since they are not so constrained as DOT – smart lobbying move by AA/ALPA. But JSX as noted goes far beyond the regs in screening and TSA had zero expressed concerns before the lobbying began

  8. “If you can’t beat them, join them”! Look forward to your favorite airline following in their footsteps. It works and the flying public wants and deserves it!

  9. A lot of airlines like miserable passengers. JSX is going against that and of course there are complaints. JSX passengers have enough money that they can afford to not be miserable.

  10. Best flying experiences I ever had were on JSX. They pulled out of BNA and I am heartbroken. No reason, no notice, just an email that our flights were canceled. Wish they’d come back.

  11. Many comments miss the major point. Air travel service and public confidence in quality and accountability in the 4 major commercial carriers has declined. Hence, new business approaches.
    Gaming the system in favor of free enterprise or government regulation is a false promise. Fixing our anachronistic air travel system requires public engagement, not just for low fares, and a public-private partnership for 21st century solutions. In the meantime this is a confused, system.I just flew ewr-den-sfo-lax-ewr as an F paying passenger. Ground self-service, check-in and security are a terrible experience for everyone.God help us if we are to be a competitive, prosperous, civil society, without reform beginning with us as responsible consumers and advocates for ourselves to push private enterprise, principally based on values of profit and parsimony, and government on status quo delay/ inaction in the name of public good.
    We can fix this with a collective strategy of engagement for reform. This leads to action, evaluation and remedy for the long haul ,with sustainable pubic support for fairness comfort and safety. It’s a winning proposition, that has is the foundation for positive change.
    In short, we have to make reform a priority. It’s hard work. It’s the American way to make change.

  12. We recently flew JSX from Dallas to Taos a few days after Christmas 2023. The Dallas end was a dream. Coming home there was weather going through NM and our experience was a nightmare. After sitting in a metal building for 4 hours, bathrooms outside (15 below at that time) and a frozen water fountain our flight was cancelled. Ok, weather is unpredictable,, get that but since the runway hadn’t been plowed for several days that should have been a clue that flights weren’t coming in or out and all the times I called that morning I should have been told that. There is no airline staff there other than baggage handlers and while they were very nice you men they had no more idea then all of us sitting there what was happening. Finally we were at least 15 to 20 min outside the town of Taos and none of us had my way to get there to get a hotel. The one baggage handler kept running 3 or 4 of us at a time ,and there were about 60 or so of us because this involved 3flights. into town. And these are just a few things we encountered that day.

  13. Heck, I’d fly them all the time if I could. I’d much rather fly private than deal with all the idiotic, dumb, rude and obnoxious , ,Walmart families, and Walmart people who fly commercial cause the cheap tickets. I’d prefer quiet and respectable business passengers any day. And as for TSA, they steal from people’s bags. Just look at the 3 of them that we’re fired in Miami

  14. I was just retired as a 36 year senior A350 Captain at Delta. I would absolutely love to spend a few more years working for a company like JSX! The best part would be getting a paycheck without the bloodsucking ALPA deduction.

  15. @Bign “skimming” = competing, passengers do not ‘belong’ to incumbent airlines, they are competing with a better product to attract customers which is exactly what you’d want

    If American were to stop offering $1 meals in first class (https://viewfromthewing.com/american-airlines-is-serving-1-shelf-stable-pasta-in-first-class-is-premium-travel-dead/) and worked to improve the airport experience (not banning CLEAR from their terminals, remember they pushed FOR the slow Analogic machines), stopped reducing legroom in first class, actually building mockups of their cabins before rolling them out so they’d understand the customer experience they’d compete better for premium passengers.

  16. You can’t “commute” from DAL to LAS, Gary. That’s the loophole. The spirit of this construct was to enable and not create unnecessary regulation for things like Des Moines, IA to Springfield, IL should there ever be a need for a scheduled service between those cities. If someone were to create a security situation or an elderly pilot (or one with 251 hours) were to have a medical/training complication, the risk is mitigated because the flight is both short and there’s not a lot of passengers.

    JSX flouts this construct and therefore it is an exploitation of at least the spirit of the rulemaking. Don’t call it a loophole if you want, but the big airlines are going to win this fight.

  17. I flew JSX with my pooch (reason why I flew) from Burbank to DFW, then DFW to BNA.

    Burbank was a nightmare. We sat in the hangar listening to roaring engines for 8 hrs before flight was cancelled. Watched one JSX plane blow an engine literally in front of my fave in the hangar.

    That said, the staff were great and even brought in pizza as we were starving while flight was continually delayed.

    We had to get Uber and fu f a hotel late, one that would take a dog.

    The next morning, we flew out and it was fine.

    Dallas to BNA was a dream, dog and all.

    Pilots look like my 22 year old kids. That made me nervous, and the amount of hours required to pilot made me nervous.

    Not sure I’d fly again.

  18. As usual, Gary is conflating two things because he thinks it makes his point. The FAR rules and changes you reference do NOT absolve JSX and do NOT address the “loophole” argument. They refer to ACTUAL charter operators who offer actual on-demand services. That is NOT JSX. They are, in fact, a scheduled airline PRETENDING to be a charter airline. That’s the loophole being exploited, to allow them do things OTHER scheduled airlines cannot.

    And AA and WN’s argument is not to eliminate competition, but to make their SCHEDULED airline competition play by the same rule as everyone else.

    I guess you figure that if you repeat your lie enough times, people will think it’s a fact.

  19. You say cheaper but offer no evidence based on head to head comparisons

    I’m guessing JSX isn’t cheap and is geared to the 1%ers. Not saying commercial airlines business or first are always the right answer or economical or offer the same level of service but what’s the difference in price

    Without price comparisons this feels like a paid advertisement

  20. It is in the consumer’s interest go get rid of the 1,500 hour requirement for copilots. It is purely an anti-free-market regulation.

    The existence of JSX is the free market pushing back on that regulation which exists entirely to skew the free market to support excessive wages for already-well-off pilots.

    (And my personal gripe, has restricted the availability of pilots to the point that my regular EAU-ORD flight got cut.)

  21. Christopher Raehl –

    The 1500 hour rule for First Officers came from the investigation and recommendations after the 2009 Colgan Airline crash, due to perceived issues with that FO’s inexperience. It was NOT because of pressure to keep pilot wages high.

    But I can forgive you making that mistake, if you read a lot of Gary Leff’s columns. He spouts that lie every chance he gets. He seems to think that pilot unions write the FARs.

  22. @Sean Murphy – first, both pilots had over 1500 hours. second, the rule doesn’t distinguish quality training hours – you can rack up hours in a tethered hot air balloon, and most do clear weather touch and go landings rather than learning anything about what it’s like to fly under commercial airline conditions. third, you seem not to understand the difference between legislation and regulation, the 1,500 hour rule came out of the former (Congress)

  23. Gary-
    I’m aware of the two mishap pilots’ qualifications. That’s why I said “perception” of inexperience. That doesn’t change the fact of why the FARs were changed. The Colgan crash.

    I know the difference between laws and regulations. Congress passes laws that direct the creation, deletion, or changing of FARs. The Colgan crash investigation is an example. Congress subsequently passed a law requiring modifications to the FARs (and creation of a new section, Part 117, as well).

  24. Terry Kozma – tell me you’re a POS Union shill without telling me….

    MileagePlus – ditto, shill.

    Allan – get off your FA knees.

    Sam – liar.

  25. @Sean Murphy has it right.

    JSX claims it is a charter operation, yet it is in reality a scheduled airline. That is the loophole they are exploiting.

    You can claim JSX is a turkey, but if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.

  26. Are people being forced to use JSX? No. They are using it of their own free will. Enough of the nanny state. Let people make their own decisions. If there were not a market they would go away.

  27. 1500 rule just makes it so that once pilots pass that mark their paychecks shoot thru the roof. But before that many would take flying jobs that pay less than fast food, to tow banners, inspect powerlines/pipelines, instruct or whatever creative way. The lucky ones might just be able to afford $100/hr to rent or afford a $50k airplane to fly in circles with. I’d argue that some of these hours are not “quality time” when i see pilots splitting the cost and flying back and forth between LA and Arizona, lol.

  28. The goods are actually individually packaged in China (and labeled with ups/fedex labels) overseas then share a ride over in ULD’s direct to the major airport closest to the end user. When it gets here they will then hand it off to UPS for last mile delivery. Since its for individual customer orders it will avoid the 5-250% import tax if under $800 the same way inbound travelers do it. The transpacific cargo lane is already pretty jam packed and takes 2+ weeks when small fish like me move cargo. Last month my cargo rode in on the same JL 787 KIX-LAX that my family was on, haha.

  29. Some of these JSX horror stories remind me of the early days of Allegiant. Stranded at remote gates. No food. ,8 hour delays. Zero customer service. Overnights at flea bag hotels due to cancellations.
    Honestly JSX footprint is so tiny, not sure what the noise is about.

  30. Gary you shill for JSX every day. There is zero chance you don’t have a conflict of interest with them that you don’t disclose. Whether it’s clicks or stock it’s clear. There is zero logic to hey the older you get the safer and more reactive you are as a pilot. I know a ton of 65 year old fighter pilots lol.

  31. @J Smith – You could make actual arguments without inaccurate ad hominem attacks. Then they’d merely be wrong.

    1) I have zero financial interest in JSX
    2) Do you really think writing about JSX brings more ‘clicks’ than writing about American Airlines or Hyatt?
    3) Do you think I co-authored a 64 page paper on this issue submitted to DOT for ‘clicks’

    For whatever reason you’ve chosen to hit the VFTW comments daily double, being both rude and wrong.

  32. I have flown JSX many times. Excellent airline employing excellent pilots. My best friend is a JSX captain. This is a faintly disguised attack by a few majors to put JSX out of business. Personally, I have had it with the majors. As a taxpayer, I contributed to the millions of $$$ given to the majors to bail them out during the pandemic. How did they repay us? By the usual gouging when travel resumed and by reducing frequent flyer benefits. Screw all of them and fly JSX!

  33. I’ve flown JSX enough times to seriously doubt most of these “horror stories” on here (flat-out lies, let’s keep it real). I’m not here to fellate a company, but if I’m having to choose between JSX and a commercial flight on that exact same route, I’m choosing JSX. And JSX ain’t cheap. But I’m getting my money’s worth. I’m dying for them to come to the DC area. The consumer has free will; if the regular carriers were doing their jobs, then the likes of JSX wouldn’t exist in the first place. Maybe they should fix their shite…

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