The FAA Takes Aim at Public Charter Operators

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced today that it plans to take two actions to address public charter flights. This means airlines like JSX will have to make some significant changes in order to keep flying.

a white airplane with red x on it
JSX’s business model is in jeopardy with new FAA regulations.

Part 121 vs. Part 135 Flying

Most airlines you see at airports across the country are flying under Part 121 regulations. These are the rules that apply to airlines who operate scheduled flights carrying more than nine passengers as well as scheduled cargo operations. Part 121 operators have to adhere to a variety of rules including pilots needing a 1,500 hour minimum of flying time and a forced retirement at the age of 65.

JSX and other similar companies operate as a public charter airlines flying under Part 135 regulations. Part 135 applies to scheduled operations with aircraft with up to nine passengers and on-demand, unscheduled air service for 30 or fewer passengers.

Part 135 rules are less stringent than Part 121 rules and only require 250 hours of flight time to serve as first officer. Pilots are also not subject to a mandatory retirement age. This was a major talking point during the pilot shortages seen in the wake of Covid-19.

Part 135 operators also have lower security screening requirements for passengers. On a recent JSX flight all I had to do was walk through a metal detector on my way to the plane. Maybe most importantly, Part 135 operators may not sell individual seats on charter flights.

a man walking down a hallway
This was the extent of the security checkpoint on a recent JSX flight.

If you head to it certainly appears that the airline is selling seats, similar to what you’d expect when booking with American or Delta. JSX is operating using a loophole wherein flights are sold by JSX but the utilize a separate company, Deluxe Public Charter, to operate the flights. In reality, the two companies are one in the same and operate out of the same building in Dallas.

JSX bills this as an advantage promoting the fact that passengers can arrive as little as 20 minutes prior to departure at their private terminals or FBOs and skip the hassle at TSA. The airline charges a premium for their flights on 30 seat, all Business Class Embraer jets.

FAA Changing Rules to Eliminate Loophole

American, Southwest and pilot unions have taken aim at the airline’s business model over the years and it seems the FAA has finally listened. The FAA intends to amend definitions of “scheduled,” “on demand,” and “supplemental” operations which, if finalized, the effect of this proposed rule change would be that public charters will be subject to operating rules based on the same safety parameters as other non-public charter operations.   

In announcing the updates, FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker had this to say:

“Part of the safety mission of the FAA is identifying risk early on, and that’s exactly what we’re doing on public charters as usage expands. If a company is effectively operating as a scheduled airline, the FAA needs to determine whether those operations should follow the same stringent rules as scheduled airlines.”

FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker

The announcement also states that the FAA will look for “opportunities to align aircraft size and certification standards with operational needs for small community and rural air service. The FAA will convene a Safety Risk Management Panel (SRMP) to assess the feasibility of a new operating authority for scheduled part 135 operations in 10-30 seat aircraft.

What Happens to JSX?

While there are many public charter operators in the United States, JSX is the largest by far and these rule changes will have the greatest impact on them. The airline does not operate from the terminal building at airports and, for the most part, flies to smaller airports that lack commercial service. The airline left Austin’s Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) for Austin Executive Airport (EDC) last year before suspending Austin flights entirely.

From a passenger experience I love flying JSX, this was especially true when we lived in Dallas only a few miles from Love Field (DAL). Now that we live in Austin I very rarely have a reason to fly them though it is hard to beat the experience.

With these changes coming from the FAA, much of JSX’s value proposition will go away as they will need stricter security screenings not offered from their private terminals and FBOs. Will JSX switch flying to the main terminals at larger airports? Is it possible that they take an Allegiant style approach and serve secondary airports (I doubt this will be the case but hey, it’s an idea)?

FAA changes to public charter rules may force airlines like JSX into airport terminals.
Could we see JSX flying from airport terminals soon?

In addition to their route map and boarding experience, the airline will likely need to replace a large number of pilots if they have to comply with the stricter Part 121 regulations. The airline has been able to attract younger, less experienced pilots along with retired airline captains who have aged out of Part 121 service.

It will be interesting to watch what unfolds as a result of the coming FAA changes. Lobbying by American, Southwest, and pilot unions seems to have persuaded the FAA into taking action though this is likely more about eliminating a competitor than anything else.


The FAA is taking aim at public charter operators like JSX with plans to amend definitions of “scheduled,” “on demand,” and “supplemental” operations. This will have significant impacts to JSX’s operating model and it will be interesting to see how the airline responds.

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