New air carrier will let you skip the line at Portland Jetport
May 9—Forget TSA PreCheck. A new air carrier bound for Portland this summer says you can show up 20 minutes before a flight, skip lengthy lines for baggage handling and security screening, and enjoy a free cocktail in-flight.
JSX will offer seasonal flights between Portland International Jetport and Westchester County Airport in White Plains, New York, where JSX also flies to Miami, Nashville, Orlando and connections beyond. The Portland service runs from June 22 to Sept. 4.
It's not a budget option. JSX fares start at $249 per seat for the 45-minute trip to White Plains. But some travelers, frustrated with traditional airline service, are looking for new ways to fly.
JSX acts as both an air charter operator and an air carrier, a hybrid arrangement that allows the company to offer regularly scheduled service with some perks of a chartered service. Flights are capped at 30 passengers and operate out of private terminals and hangars ("fixed-base operators," or FBOs) that are typically adjacent to commercial airports but less crowded.
In Portland, the "hop-on jet service" will fly out of the Northeast Air general aviation terminal, which underwent a $3 million expansion in 2016 and is a short walk from the Jetport's main entrance. There will be five flights per week.
Ben Kaufman, JSX director of communications, said the company felt a Westchester-Portland link could be a "niche opportunity."
"We felt like there was some untapped potential from the area for people to get up there," he said. The air service has also added year-round flights from Westchester to Nashville and Dallas and a seasonal flight to Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.
Kaufman said JSX will watch its business this summer and evaluate whether Portland could work as a year-round destination.
Leisure travel has not only recovered from the hit it took at the start of the pandemic, but has also surpassed pre-pandemic levels, according to Deloitte Insights, a business and analytics firm. Business travel is still lagging, however.
The jet service is trying to take leisure travel and elevate it to luxury, according to Kaufman. Travelers need only arrive 20 minutes prior to their flight. There is a TSA-approved "frictionless security" process, few lines and planeside baggage service, according to JSX.
Once in the air, the jets boast first-class legroom, an open bar, snacks and other amenities. JSX also allows pets on board — for free if they can fit in a carrier under a seat. Dogs under 80 pounds are also allowed in the cabin for the price of an additional seat.
Flying by private jet with a four-legged friend is a growing trend for some travelers. But many commercial airlines require animals to travel as cargo, which can be stressful and dangerous.
Paul Bradbury, the Jetport's airport director, said the JSX flights "could be a product that's useful for some travelers."
New York is the second-most popular destination for travelers leaving the Jetport — behind Washington, D.C. — so Westchester County, under an hour's drive from the city, makes sense, he said.
The JSX route also returns service between Portland and White Plains. Elite Airways, a Portland-based airline that has stopped flying, offered a White Plains stop that Bradbury said was a popular one.
Bradbury said the Jetport has seen an increase in seasonal flights, with new or expanded service from carriers JetBlue, Frontier, United, Southwest and American Airlines, as well as newcomer Breeze Airways.
Breeze, a budget airline, announced earlier this year that will begin year-round service May 17 between Portland and Tampa. Flights will begin May 19 to and from Charleston, South Carolina, and a route connecting Portland and Orlando is planned for September.
Breeze has also said it will offer summer seasonal flights to Pittsburgh, Norfolk, Virginia, and Islip, New York.
The additions of both JSX and Breeze come at a time when much of the traveling public is losing confidence in or simply access to commercial airlines.
In just over three years, more than 300 U.S. airports have seen service cuts, losing an average of 30% of their flights, according to the Regional Airline Association. More than 14 of those airports — primarily those in smaller, more rural areas — have lost commercial service completely.
The association says a national pilot shortage is to blame.
In addition, flight cancellations are on the rise, with numbers increasing in 2021 and 2022 and the federal Government Accountability Office laying much of the responsibility on airlines.
In December, Southwest Airlines canceled nearly 17,000 flights after a winter storm triggered a service meltdown. Of those, at least 20 flights were out of Portland International Jetport, affecting about 3,000 passengers.
Federal investigators are still investigating whether Southwest scheduled more flights than it could realistically handle, according to the Associated Press. And the Transportation Department has said it is working with airlines to reduce cancellations and delays this summer when air travel could exceed pre-pandemic records, the AP reported.
As travelers grow increasingly frustrated with commercial airlines, other business models have been gaining ground, with various degrees of success.
There are private jets, semi-private public charters like JSX and Aero, and membership-based charters like SetJet and Surf Air. The options are extensive. But they're also not without fault.
Wheels Up, for example, once promised to become the Uber or Airbnb of private jets. CEO and founder Kenny Dichter wanted to make them more affordable and easier to book. But Wheels Up struggled with high costs and operating issues and the company reported losses of $555 million last year. Dichter stepped down as CEO on Tuesday.
JSX has also faced challenges. The carrier has a lawsuit pending against Westchester County Airport over rules governing fixed-base operators and whether they can rent their space out for scheduled flights or if planes that hold a certain number of passengers must use the main terminal.