After county attempts to ban it, a charter jet company’s unique arrangement to fly passengers out of a noncommercial aircraft facility at John Wayne Airport is safe — for now.
Orange County Supervisors on Tuesday struck down a provision of their new agreements with airport hangar operators — approved in September — that would have banned the commuter jet company, JSX, from flying customers out of them.
The new agreement with the company operating the facility JSX is housed in, ACI Jet, meant JSX could no longer tout a business model of faster flight service — free of long check-in delays — separate from the other, often crowded airline terminals.
The supervisors’ decision came after a federal judge overturned the JSX ban, and that ruling came after JSX filed a federal lawsuit against the county alleging it was kicking the charter jet service out of the airport in bad faith.
Still, with this win for JSX, it’s unclear if ACI Jet wants to continue hosting the company out of its facility, one of a few at the airport, known as “General Aviation facilities,” which are reserved for small propeller planes and noncommercial aircraft.
The uncertainty comes out of previous statements by ACI Jet CEO William Borgsmiller casting doubt on whether the company might continue to lease space to JSX, and out of nearby communities’ opposition to general aviation facilities hosting commercial airlines.
In a Tuesday email to residents, Newport Beach officials — who led calls to limit the amount of space and service to private jets and airlines at the general aviation facilities — didn’t appear to be worried by supervisors’ Tuesday decision to allow JSX to lease space from ACI Jet.
In fact, officials in their email said they have “no reason to believe the FBOs (hangar operators like ACI Jet) have plans to change their business models and schedule commercial flights from their facilities.”
ACI Jet’s decision to boot JSX came in part because county officials made it a term of their renewed agreement with the company to lease the general aviation facility.
But Borgsmiller in a past hearing in JSX’s federal lawsuit case testified it was “one of many factors that influenced that business decision.”
Still, U.S. District Court Judge Josephine L. Staton in her ruling — which at one point appears to cite video evidence of Borgsmiller speaking with fellow executives at his company — found “it was the county’s decision, not ACI Jet’s, to include the restrictive term in the 35-year fixed base operator (“FBO”) lease between ACI Jet and the county.”
For now, JSX can continue operating on its current business model, which allows screened passengers to bypass the usual Transit Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints that have become custom to flyers.
JSX has refused to disclose the details of its own security process, which it maintains is federally authorized, calling them “security sensitive.”
Brandon Pho is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member at Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @photherecord.