OC OKs Commuter Jet Operations at John Wayne Airport

Saturday, January 23, 2021

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While the long-term future of commuter flights at John Wayne Airport is unclear, they’re no longer banned in contracts with companies that serve small planes and private jets.

Commuter carrier JSX (formerly Jet Suite X) has developed a following in the two and a half years it’s flown out of JWA, but some airport activists and residents have complained about noise and air pollution from a service that isn’t covered by the legal agreement that governs commercial airlines using the airport.

Residents and hobby pilots lobbied for several years to ensure more profitable commuter jets wouldn’t squeeze Cessnas and other personal aircraft out of the JWA airfield. Their efforts culminated in a ban on commuter operations in new leases with fixed-base operators, which provide hangar space, maintenance, fuel, and other services to the non-commercial side of the airport.

Late last year, JSX went to court to challenge the ban that would have ended its tenure at John Wayne on Jan. 1. After a federal judge granted the company a temporary restraining order so it could continue to operate, the Orange County Board of Supervisors voted on Jan. 12 to strike that provision from the leases, effectively ending the ban.

“The court has determined that provision of the lease is not consistent with federal law,” Supervisor Don Wagner, who proposed getting rid of it, said ahead of the Jan. 12 meeting. “It isn’t worth us spending any more tax dollars trying to defend.”

JSX advertises itself as being fast and easy for travelers – it’s based on the small plane side of the airport, so passengers don’t have to go through the main terminal, instead the company has its own security process – and flying to destinations neglected by major airlines. Destinations on the company’s website include Concord, Oakland, and Reno-Tahoe.

In the long term, any commuter service would need to sign a contract, either directly with the airport or as a sub-tenant of one of the fixed-base operators, to run regular flights out of Orange County.

JSX CEO Alex Wilcox said he’s pleased the supervisors nixed the ban on commuter fliers, and he’s talking with airport officials about what’s next.

“It obviously means we can continue to operate at Orange County airport without interference and we look forward to working with the airport to find a permanent home for JSX,” he said.

Photo Courtesy of JSX: Private charter jet business JSX filed a lawsuit against OC and JWA, after the county negotiated new contracts with airport service providers that say they won’t lease to charter services – meaning JSX would have to shut down service Jan. 1.

Category: Business News, transportation