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JSX jet service: We were social distancing before it was cool

The CEO of the hop-on jet service talks about how it's slowly returning to flying in a new pandemic era of air travel.

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JSX is plotting its next course in the age of COVID-19.
JSX

Canceled tickets. Empty flights. Deserted airports. Like it has done to almost every other industry, the coronavirus pandemic has brought air travel to a screeching halt.

It's a reality that Alex Wilcox, the CEO of JSX knows well. The hop-on jet service, founded in 2016 as JetSuiteX, saw its daily flights go from 100 in February to just five per day by April. "It was devastating, obviously," Wllcox said during an interview this week for CNET's Now What series. "There's no question that's had a tremendous impact on our business."

As we enter July, Wilcox said passengers are slowly returning to the skies again. JSX now operates about 50 flights per day with much of the demand coming in the last three weeks as casinos and hotels in Las Vegas, one of JSX's most popular destinations, reopened to visitors.

Now playing: Watch this: Masks, wipes and air filters: Flying in the age of coronavirus
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To that end, he recognizes that convincing people to fly again is about more than just making them feel safe onboard. "There has to be something to do once you get off the airplane," he said. "I hear people say they're not afraid to get on an airplane, but there's nowhere to go."

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As conferences and large sporting and cultural events continue to be canceled across the country, Wilcox admitted that giving people a reason to fly will remain a challenge. But in the meantime, he said JSX's unique passenger experience, which includes private departure lounges distinct from the main airport terminal and fewer seats further apart on its Embraer 135 and 145 aircraft, gives it an advantage over traditional airlines."

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Alex Wilcox

JSX

"All the things that made JSX distinct before COVID are even more important Now it's a matter of health," he said. "We were social distancing before it was cool."

Other safety precautions JSX is taking include a touch-free check-in process, using thermal cameras to detect passengers with a temperature over 103 degrees, distributing sanitary wipes and requiring both passengers and cabin crew to wear face masks during the flight. Onboard its planes, the air is refreshed every three minutes (with the air moving from the ceiling to the floor rather than front to back) and HEPA filters that screen 99% of air particles.

"We don't know who has this disease even though we screen for all of the things that we can. If you're asymptomatic you may be shedding the virus," Wilcox said. "If there's any possibility of that we're going to insist our customers wear that mask."

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JSX's Embraer aircraft have 10-20 fewer seats than those used by traditional airlines.

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Wilcox had a lot more to say, including where JSX could expand next beyond its Southwest US base. Listen to the interview for the full story.

Now What is a video interview with industry leaders, celebrities and influencers that covers trends impacting businesses and consumers amid the "new normal."  There will always be change in our world, and we'll be here to discuss how to navigate it all.