(You can listen to this column, read by the author, here.)
I fly to Dallas a little too often.
When I go for personal reasons, like to visit my daughter, I’ll take Frontier Airlines. I’m willing to be treated like luggage in exchange for a $30 one-way ticket. Yep, I gamble I might spend my night camped out at an airline gate waiting for the new flight crew, or a missing mechanical part, or forgotten paperwork, or whatever.
I once waited two hours for them to empty the sewage from the plane. I’ll assume that one was worth the wait.
For those interested in the hospitality reviews: DIA’s mostly carpeted terminals are a luxurious 5-star overnight stay compared to the rather utilitarian, Motel 6-laminated floors of the DFW Airport.
If I’m going for business, I’ll pay more to fly United or American to increase the odds of getting there on time. No guarantee, just increased odds.
But I have another option I’ve wanted to try, but could lose the chance.
If I wanted to shell out a few extra bucks I could fly JSX airlines right out of convenient (for me), smaller Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport just off of US-36 in Broomfield.
JSX is the closest to a personal jet a middle-class schmo like me could ever afford. They fly small regional jets, give free snacks, free drinks, free checked bags and free Starlink internet.
And best still, like Taylor Swift boarding her private plane, you can arrive just 20 minutes before your departure and off you go without all the inhumane, dehumanizing, cattle-car treatment of modern airline/ TSA travel.
It’s part of the wonders of a competitive transportation market. So, of course, the Federal Aviation Administration is trying to ban them.
It’s not just a story of nasty government bureaucracy trying to squash the little guy. It’s good old corporatism at work as big airlines like American Airlines and their unions get government to outlaw their competition.
How’s this little airline a threat to the big boys?
I just looked up flights to Dallas for around 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 1. Mind you, airline ticket prices change like the moods of 13-year-old girls, but when I looked to fly: the Greyhound bus of the skies, Frontier Airlines, would cost me $155. To fly American Airlines, it would be $244. But first class on American was a whopping $809. JSX is all first class.
The regional jets they use are made to have 50 seats, but by regulation they can only have 30. The 6:30 p.m. flight to Dallas is only $489. That’s $320 less than American Airlines. No wonder American wants to have them put out of business.
JSX can do it for less for many reasons, including how it operates in smaller, often private, regional airports that charge much less for gate fees.
Also, they can hire pilots who have far fewer flying hours than those flying large passenger airplanes. This is by the rules set out by the FAA themselves — rules the FAA now wants to change under pressure from big airlines and their unions.
So far there have been absolutely no safety problems with airlines like JSX. None. So why change the regulations now? Because this business model is growing, serving more customers and hiring more pilots, giving them more hours behind the wheel so someday they can fly the big planes.
Everyone is winning except the entrenched interests giving us lousy air service.
Other regional airlines are looking to get into the business too.
Regional carrier Sky West has proposed an operation under a similar model to serve smaller communities that can’t be attended to with costly large aircraft and pilots paid more than $200,000 a year.
Pilot unions want to make sure the current shortage of pilots continues indefinitely. They want this FAA rule to ban “charter” airline routes that “appear to offer to the public as essentially indistinguishable from flights conducted by air carriers …”
Just as the taxi cartel hated Uber and Lyft when they got started, the airline cartel hates JSX.
Colorado is in desperate need of air travel competition. Public comment on the rule change will make a substantial difference to the FAA’s decision. Your voice can be heard at: www.regulations.gov/document/FAA-2023-1857-0001.
Or I can save you a space on the floor by the airline gate. Oh, that plush DIA carpet — it’s like a night at the Broadmoor.
Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.
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