American Airlines, along with Southwest Airlines and the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), have convinced the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to consider changing the rules of how small charter airlines operate. Specifically, AA is leading the charge to have the federal government effectively ban these charters because of present and future competition concerns. American is trying to alter the market through regulatory fiat as opposed to actually engaging in free market competition.
JSX is a hop-on jet service. It runs 30-seat flights with business-class amenities, including legroom, seat power, and Starlink Wi-Fi. It flies out of hangars adjacent to existing airports, has a TSA-accepted security plan, has a waiting lounge, and your luggage is collected right at check-in and you watch it get loaded on (and off) the flight. The entire check-in and exit process makes the traditional airport experience look like a Soviet Union bread line. Best of all, one only needs to check in at the hangar 20 minutes before the flight, and travel is reasonably and competitively priced for what one gets.
No wonder American and Southwest are so worried!
For those who need specifics on what American is trying to pull, here’s a primer:
- US Title 14, Chapter 1, Subchapter G Part 121 states that carriers can sell tickets directly to the public and operate flights under onerous compliance requirements. This is the regulation that the legacy airlines operate under.
- Part 380 permits a Public Charter Operator to arrange for an on-demand charter flight and sell individual tickets to the public, but can’t actually operate the flight itself.
- A Part 135 provider can operate the flight itself but cannot specify either the cities it serves or the times of the flights (“on-demand”).
- A Part 135 provider with an airplane having 30 seats may perform flights for a Part 380 operator.
- JSX flights are sold under Part 380 by JetSuiteX Inc. as the charter operator, and the flights are provided by Part 135 carrier JSX Air.
- Legacy airlines like American Airlines that operate under Part 121 want the FAA to alter Part 380/135, forcing JSX and other charter airlines to operate as Part 121 carriers, which would result in a de facto ban on the scrappy disruptive competitor.
American justifies its move for “safety reasons”, but admits that its attempts to ban JSX – which offers superior 30-seat all-business class service — has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with banning competition via regulatory scheming. Its baseless rulemaking request attempts to weaponize the FAA, a craven misuse of the regulatory process by an airline with one of the worst customer service records in the industry.
That’s the headline, but the issue is much worse for everyday travelers.
See, American isn’t just coming after JSX. It’s coming after you.
Would you like to know why?
Because American’s management doesn’t see us passengers as human.
They see us as ungrateful penny-pinchers who should thank American for the privilege of being load-factored into their clown-car aircraft and Torquemada bathrooms. They have nothing but contempt for us, measuring our worth in “Revenue Passenger Miles,” overbooking and bumping us one thousand times more frequently than Delta, with the worst baggage mishandling stats of the largest ten airlines, and the third-worst record of mishandled wheelchairs and scooters.
American Airlines wants to isolate rural communities and force us to drive hundreds of miles to an airport, so we can have the pleasure of paying extortionate airfare. Traveling with kids? Too bad. Drive and pay. Traveling to see a dying relative? Too bad. Drive and pay. Traveling with an elderly person? Too bad. Drive and pay.
Apparently the phrase, “At American Airlines, our purpose is to care for people on life’s journey” is merely an inside joke, not an actual corporate value.
That helps explain why AA landed in 9th place in J.D. Power’s 2023 rankings for airlines serving economy passengers. Only Spirit and Frontier were worse. For business passengers, J.D. Power ranked American in 6th place – dead last. Of the big five airlines, American had the second worst on-time performance over the last 3 months. Of the top 15 airlines for October, American came in at 11th place, in which 1 of every 4 of its flights was late.
Even employees know how bad things are at American. Right before Doug Parker resigned at CEO, a flight attendant told him to his face that American’s standards sucked. She’s right. “Respect” is an alleged core value at American, namely, “fostering a culture of respect for its customers, employees, and stakeholders.” Sure it is. Also, there’s gambling going on in this casino.
“Honesty” is another alleged core value, as American “believes in operating with honesty, which is critical to building and maintaining trust with its customers, employees, and stakeholders. The airline operates with transparency and integrity in all business dealings and prioritizes ethical behavior.”
The only thing transparent about American’s business dealings in regards to its FAA stunt is how disingenuous it is.
We should expect this, of course. What does an oligarchy do? What is its purpose? To maintain pricing power. How? Not by competition or innovation. That costs too much. Worse, it takes imagination. No, an oligarchy maintains pricing power by coercion and cheating. By trying to change the rules. Thus, American is coming after your air transportation choices, or, in oligarchical double-speak, “to relieve you of the burden of having to choose.”
After all, American Airlines could just dust off its own 30-seat aircraft and offer a competing product. The market is big enough for another entrant, and AA has the capital after reporting four consecutive quarters of record revenue totaling $49.5 billion.
I have a friend who grew up in the Soviet Union. The toy store in her city had rows and rows of toys: one row of identical dolls, one row of identical balls, and one row of identical plastic chess sets. If that sounds like the current legacy airline market, consider yourself an observant student of history. And, like the Soviet Union, American Airlines would like to keep the market just the way it is while they fake a smile and announce after each flight that “we know you have a choice in the marketplace, so thank you for choosing American Airlines!”
Right. Doll, ball, or chess set?
If you want to be treated better by American Airlines, this is your chance to let them know. You live in an area that JSX and other charter airlines serve, intend to serve, or may need to be served one day. Speak up.
- Write to your federal, state, and local officials and have them hammer American Airlines management to withdraw the rulemaking proposal.
- If you’re an American Airlines shareholder, and meet the criteria, demand to bring this matter up at the next annual meeting and have this absurd rulemaking proposal withdrawn by shareholder vote.
- Write to Nate Gatten, American Airlines’ Chief Government Affairs Officer – and demand this rulemaking petition be withdrawn.
Let these people know you will not stand for this betrayal of American ideals, competition, and innovation.
Let American Airlines know that it doesn’t get to beg the FAA to move the goalpost — not on our watch. They’ll have to go through us first.
Larry Meyers is a policy analyst focusing on government overreach.