JSX Jet service sues Orange County, airport
Dallas-based company seeking to continue commuter flights at John Wayne Airport into 2021
By Alicia Robinson | SCNG
With just days until its service at John Wayne Airport was set to be terminated, a commuter jet company is suing Orange County in the hope of continuing flights into the new year.
Dallas-based JSX began operating at John Wayne in June 2018 and carries hundreds of passengers to and from the airport each month.
The company subleases space on the general aviation, or small plane, side of the airport and does its own security screenings, rather than sending passengers through the main terminal and loading at the same gates as major airlines.
Though the service is popular with some travelers, residents with concerns about airport noise and pollution have complained to officials about commuter jets, and some wanted to see JSX and any other such service get the boot.
That’s what was expected to happen as of Friday under new long-term contracts the county negotiated this fall for maintenance, fueling and other small-plane services. In the agreements, contractors pledge not to lease to “regularly scheduled commercial users,” which would include JSX.
Hoping to keep operating in 2021 — and to honor already-sold tickets for
flights through the end of March — JSX filed a federal lawsuit Dec. 14. On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Josephine L. Staton granted the company’s request for a temporary restraining order so it can keep running flights while the case proceeds.
“JSX’s award-winning hop-on service will continue to fly to and from John Wayne Airport in the interim and JSX will continue to work in good faith with all parties toward a mutually acceptable long-term accommodation,” company CEO Alex Wilcox said in a statement Wednesday.
Private charter jet business JSX filed a suit against Orange County and JWA after the county negotiated new contracts with service providers that say they won’t lease to charter services.
An airport spokeswoman said in a Dec. 15 email the county was reviewing the lawsuit and had no comment. On Wednesday, County Counsel Leon Page said in a statement, “We look forward to reviewing the proposed order that will be prepared by plaintiff’s counsel and submitted to the District Court and then conferring with the Board (of Supervisors) about our next steps in the case.”
Supervisor Michelle Steel, who represents Orange County’s 2nd District, which includes the airport, also declined to comment.
Wilcox said in an earlier interview that he thought he had offered John Wayne Airport officials some workable solutions to their security concerns, but he found out in early November the airport planned to give passenger allocations in the terminal to new budget airlines that fly to some of the same destinations as JSX.
About two weeks later, he said he got a letter from management indicating JSX could no longer operate at the airport as of Friday.
“We’ve spent all this time and years and millions of dollars building our market, and they’re just going to hand (the routes) over to these other airlines,” Wilcox said.
In a court filing responding to the company’s request for an injunction, county lawyers argue that JSX wasn’t kicked out — saying the company simply can’t find someone to sublease them airport space, and the lease provision barring charter services was voluntary and not required by the county.
Since coming to JWA, Wilcox said his company has pumped about $14 million into the local economy, paying salaries for 50 locally based employees, airport fees and rent as a subtenant, and buying fuel.
The company hasn’t had any safety or security problems in Orange County, he said, and several thousand of its customers have emailed county supervisors in support of JSX.
“They dealt with us in bad faith,” Wilcox said of county and JWA officials. “The question everybody asks me is why is this happening, and the answer is, I just don’t know.”
In the county’s legal filing, it said airport officials have offered to accommodate JSX in the main terminal, but the company wanted special treatment — to continue operating commercial service out of the private plane side of the airport.
Wilcox has said his business model is based on getting people on and off their flights quickly and with less hassle than they typically face in airports.
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- Posted On: 12/26/2020 8:42:08 AM
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- Last Modified On: 12/26/2020 8:42:08 AM
- Category: Community News