July 21, 2022

930 words 5 mins read

Flying JSX

In May, for the first time in quite a while, I took a plane trip. Normally this wouldn’t be much to write home about, other than the fact that there has been very little plane travel in the last two years. However because this trip was to Las Vegas, and for business, I was lucky enough to have a chance to try out something new. Specifically I flew JSX, which is a small regional “Airline” (technically I don’t think they are an airline, but you get the idea) which flies predominately to small airports. What is special about them is that they fly small jets (Embraer ERJ 135/145) that seat a maximum of 30 people and style themselves as a semi-private flying experience.

So what does this “semi-private” style mean? Well, I don’t think they use that terminology anymore, but it’s the best way to think about it. Calling it a “regional” or talking about “small planes” just gives you the wrong feeling.

First - you only need to arrive at the airport ~30mn before your scheduled departure time. Keep in mind that they fly out of private terminals or FBO (Fixed Base Operators) sides of airports. This means there is no commercial flight shenanigans. No TSA. No long lines for security (Note: They do have security and it is TSA approved). No 20 mile walks in an airport to find your gate.

You arrive at their “terminal”, checkin with their agents and walk through their security. After that you’re in their own dedicated waiting area. After the few minute wait for your flight to be called… you get to walk out of the hanger and onto your plane directly. For anyone who’s flown out of small remote/airports, this isn’t anything new. However, if you’re only used to flying “big commercial”, it’s quite a different feeling when you’re walking out onto the tarmac.

Second - As I previously mentioned, you’re on a plane with 30 seats. It’s a decent sized jet that could clearly seat more if they wanted to pack them in commercial style, however they legally cannot. In order to fly in and out of some of the smaller airport (like KCCR & KMRY ), they operate under Part 135 (charter-type license) which restricts them to no more than 30 passengers. For the passengers, that means every seat has plenty of legroom. The flight I was on had 1x2 seating, though I’ve read some of their planes are 1x1 seating. Basically that’s an entire plan of psuedo-business class seating.

Of course, these are smaller jets overall, so the center aisle is even smaller than what’s on commercial. It’s a little narrower and more importantly less headroom. If you’re 6’ plus, you’re going to be stooping down to walk in side the plane. But don’t worry, there is plenty of headroom when seated. How can there be headroom? Well there isn’t enough space for overhead baggage. You’re only allowed a small carry on. This shouldn’t be a problem as there is no reason to bring your rolly bag on the flight anyway as there is approximately zero chance of your bag getting lost. Plus you get two (or 3 - depending on your ticket) checked bags for free.

Third - In air service is, of course, excellent. There is a maximum of 30 passengers and one flight attendant (no they are not stewards or stewardesses, get with the times). Beyond the nice seats and power outlets, there is “complimentary snacks, beverages, and cocktails”. The only negative as compared to the big airlines is the current lack of in-flight wifi. Though for flights that typically are around 90 minutes, this isn’t a big loss. Just sit back and enjoy the tasty snacks and an hour of being disconnected with a good view.

Fourth - It also means that the loading and unloading time for the plane is extremely short. On my flight to Las Vegas (which departed out of KOAK), possibly because it was Monday morning going to Vegas and COVID is still a thing… there was a total of 6 people on the plane. Boarding took about 2mn, from the time they called us in the lounge, to the time everyone was on the plane. And that’s only because the plane required a 30 second walk on the tarmac to get to. On the return to Oakland I was ready for the unloading process, we pull up to the terminal & they unload the bags so you can grab them on the way out. As I was grabbing my bag, I hit the request button on lyft. Walk into the terminal, use the restroom, walk out the front door… and wait. Yes, it is that fast to deplane and get outside that even “Pickup in 4mn” lyft required waiting for.

Overall? An excellent experience. Yes, JSX doesn’t fly everywhere I’d like it to go (KCCR to KLAS would be amazingly convenient for me). It’s also not the cheapest. It’s not “private-esque” expensive, tickets are in the hundreds of dollars (not thousands). Depending on when you are flying it can be comparable to the larger airlines like United or Delta. At busy times like Las Vegas on a Friday, you’ll certainly pay a premium. It’s certainly not a Spirit or Southwest style budget Airline pricing - but hopefully you aren’t expecting that. As I’m going back to Vegas is August for another work trip, I can confidently say “I will be flying JSX again”. Hopefully they continue to be successful and can expand their footprint further. Portland would be nice.