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FAA will act to close ‘loophole’ for public charter flights

Agency rulemaking will require public charters like JSX to operate under Part 121, but FAA will also explore new operating models for the future

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Release Date
June 17, 2024
FAA will act to close ‘loophole’ for public charter flights

The Federal Aviation Administration is moving forward with rulemaking to close a perceived loophole that allows some public charter operators — such as JSX — to operate under less stringent regulations than scheduled airlines.

The FAA announced on June 17 that it is launching a formal effort to amend the regulatory definitions of “scheduled”, “on demand” and “supplemental” operations to eliminate a carve-out that allows public charters in aircraft with up to 30 passenger seats to be operated under 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 135. By contrast, turbojets and airplanes with 10 or more passenger seats used in scheduled airline service must be operated under the more demanding provisions of Part 121.

The agency solicited feedback on its plans in August 2023, receiving nearly 60,000 comments, the vast majority of which were from customers of JSX and other public charter operators opposing any change. Because there have been no accidents or incidents to prompt it, JSX contends that the rulemaking is “the product of a full-bore lobbying campaign of misinformation and innuendo by some of the most powerful, entrenched airline industry interests,” including American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), all of which have condemned the JSX business model (as has American’s former CEO Doug Parker, who has been particularly outspoken in his criticism).

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The FAA maintains that it is strictly motivated by the desire to proactively manage risk as the usage of public charters expands. From the customer’s perspective, many public charter operations are practically indistinguishable from scheduled airlines, and “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 declared.

However, responding to concerns that the rulemaking could negatively impact small and rural communities as well as the emerging electric aircraft market, the FAA also plans to convene a Safety Risk Management Panel (SRMP) to assess the feasibility of a new operating authority for scheduled Part 135 operations using aircraft with 10 to 30 passenger seats. “We want to put a safety lens over the options of future innovation, as we work to further connect small and rural communities to open up more options for everyone at the same high level of safety,” Whitaker said.

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