Private Jet Service Wins TRO to Keep Doing Business at John Wayne Airport

Private Jet Service Wins TRO to Keep Doing Business at John Wayne Airport
A 9-foot-tall statue of John Wayne stands at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, Calif., on June 26, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
City News Service

SANTA ANA, Calif. (CNS)—A federal judge granted a temporary restraining order on Dec. 23 blocking Orange County from denying a permit for a private jet service from operating on the corporate jet side of John Wayne Airport.

It could be a short-lived victory, however; the lease expires at year’s end, and it is unlikely to be renewed by ACI Jet, the airport’s fixed-base operator (FBO), because county and Newport Beach officials have objected to the company, JSX, operating in the general aviation side of the airport.

“It goes back to Newport Beach not wanting them and promises the FBO made to the community,” said Orange County Supervisor Doug Chaffee.

“I’m surprised they won because they don’t have a place to go. The current lease ends Dec. 31 and they can’t be a subtenant unless the FBO gives them a sublease, which has not happened, and they have taken a position they won’t give them one.”

Chaffee objected to JSX operating in the side of the airport for corporate jets and smaller aircraft because its customers don’t have to go through Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening, something the company advertises as a perk for its customers.

“My concern was safety,” Chaffee said. “Their passengers do not go through a safety check like they do in the terminal. They claim they have some kind of safety check like we do with TSA people, but that is not a risk I want.

“In a congested airport that’s small, when you mix what is commercial aviation with a general aviation FBO, it gets more confusing and more difficult to manage from a safety point of view.”

Chaffee said JSX was “offered a space in the terminal but it doesn’t work with their business model because they don’t want their passengers having to go through the terminal.”

Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said U.S. District Judge Josephine Staton ruled that the county does not have a lease with JSX, so it was up to ACI to manage its lease with JSX as a subtenant.

Residents of Newport Beach and Costa Mesa and members of various airport groups have objected to JSX continuing business at the airport, Bartlett said.

“The county, through the airport director, has offered JSX several gates in the commercial terminal,” but have been rebuffed, Bartlett said.

The company advertises that customers can show up for a flight 20 minutes beforehand and get ushered on board, Bartlett said.

JSX CEO Alex Wilcox said he was pleased to report Staton’s ruling.

“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,” Wilcox said.

“I am deeply grateful to the over 10,000 people who voiced their support for JSX in the past week, and to all JSX crew members for bravely continuing to make JSX such a valued service to so many in Orange County and beyond in spite of the many challenges this year.”

JSX alleged in its lawsuit it was told it could not operate at the airport at all in 2021.

JSX advertises itself as a “hop-on jet service” that provides “hassle-free, affordable, and crowd-free air transportation.”

In the federal lawsuit, the company argued it offers a TSA-approved and “compliant security process that is superior and exceeds security that occurs in the main terminal. JSX’s check-in procedure presents customers with less hassle and requires customers to dedicate less time than is required at the main airport terminal and reduces their exposure to crowds, which protects them from life-threatening diseases such as COVID.”

The board voted 3-2 earlier this month, with Chairwoman Michelle Steel and Supervisor Don Wagner dissenting, to fight JSX’s lawsuit and application for a temporary restraining order to prevent its exclusion from continuing to operate at the airport.