Masks, wipes and air filters: Flying in the age of coronavirus
COVID-19 pandemic is brought the air travel industry out of the clouds.
As government's orders stay at home lockdowns, hotels, clothes and events were canceled.
People around the world stopped flying leaving airports nearly empty.
But now as many of those lockdowns are lifting some people who may have traveled frequently in the past may be hesitant to fly again.
So now what?
With me now is Alex Wilcox, CEO of JSX.
JSX is a lot of fans have seen it.
A lot of us used it to fly to CES this year.
I haven't used it yet, but I look forward to at some point.
I can't wait to have you aboard your you won't want to go back.
That's good to know.
So, tell me how is the COVID-19 pandemic affected?
JSX what has been your experience and started?
Well,like many in the hospitality and travel industry it was it was devastating obviously.
You know, in February, we were flying over 100 flights a day.
And in April, which was the low point we were down about five flights a day.
So we it was complete, you know, 95% disruption in terms of revenue and operations and everything to go with it.
So there's there's no denying there's been a tremendous impact, you know, on our business from this.
I'm happy to say, however that you know, since then, we rebounded quite substantially.
We're back up to about 50% of where we were In February and this is a company by the way, that has doubled every year for the last four years and we've tried to do that again this year so we wouldn't be happy about being 50% of where you were when you expect it to be at 200% where you were.
But when I look around at our peers in the industry and others and hospitality business I'm grateful.
I think that there's all the things that made JSX distinct prior to COVID are even more important now.
No private lounges, no crowds, more space on the airplane.
All those things were convenient and special before but now it's matter of health as well.
So We're well positioned and most of the growth that we've seen since then has been literally in the last two, and a half weeks and ever since Las Vegas reopened and that's where we're seeing most of the strength.
When you think about that process about you sort of ramping down, then you're ramping back up.
What was really the timeline of that?
When did you really first see.
We're gonna have to cut flights and then you've been tell me about when you've started to see the ramp up.
It was mid March, when the state homeowners started to come out that ,all sudden we saw it Cancellations start to increase as you saw people get concerned and typically, you know you can our booking curve is most of our flights booked within 30 days about half our flights booked within seven days because our markets are so short haul people make last minute decisions to fly You know, LA to Vegas or bay area to LA, Orange County Phoenix places like that is a relatively short you know, one hour flights.
So the windows as we say is quite tight and usually cancellations are about 5% you know, people changing times and rebooking for different time or just you know, cancelling the trip altogether.
That's typically run about 5% of bookings.
And we woke up one morning, I think it was like March 17th, or 18th and cancellations outstrip bookings by like 3 to 1.
We've never seen that before.
The resize of charts we can even, you know, see it on the morning reports and that's, you know, when it became very clear to us that this was going to be a real, real problem.
So yeah, I would say it was a mid March timeframe.
And then the meteor was in mid April.
And it's been the Snopes low time back since then, you know, we're relatively small and nimble.
We've got 23 airplanes in our fleet.
So we were able to cut back services, you know, rather quickly, you know, compared to some of our larger competitors who have a lot more inertia and were equally nimble on the on the way back up and able to ramp.
Services back up.
And as an example three weeks ago, we had two flights a day from Burbank to Las Vegas and I think this Friday we'll have eight.
So it's been we've got the capacity and the aeroplanes are there and they're not in any kind of long term storage programme they're ready to go.
So when you talk about the ramp up You mean people maybe maybe feel comfortable flying but Right now there's not a whole lot of reasons to fly.
A lot of events are canceled.
Some places are still, some travel destinations are still, pretty locked down.
What do you think the factors are that getting people back on that plane?
What what needs to happen to get people wanna fly again?
Yeah, no, I think, you're exactly right.
And we saw for example, when Coachella was canceled, and.
That obviously canceled our flights to Coachella because there's no one wanted to spend that money kind of wanted to go there at that time of the year.
And so that was a very easy decision to make.
But what we've heard since then, and in fact, even two months ago, I heard people say, Look, I'm not afraid to get an airplane go somewhere, but there is nowhere to go.
I haven't had this experience personally, you book a flight.
Take your family somewhere.
We were going to go to Scottsdale and we're gonna fly in a Phoenix and state hotel and everything's booked and then you call the hotel to make sure everything's cool.
And they say, Yeah, well, by the way, the pools are closed and the restaurants are closed.
So you want to sit in your room and stare at each other and stare at the walls all day long.
You're welcome to do that, but
You know, I guess we we canceled the trip and we just did it at home instead like the rest of us.
And so you're exactly right.
It's the not just the, you know, can you wrap your head around getting on an airplane but it's also you know, is there something to do when you get off the airplane with the other end
And you know, I think that's a big part of why Vegas is there now because particularly with our partnership with a when we've got a like minded, you know, property there that's going to spend the time the money and the effort to make sure that things are sterilized and clean and safe and socially distance you know, properly so for people that Are looking for that, and that's super important to us that we're working with those kinds of partners, but to your point, it wasn't until we started offering packages to Vegas that those things started booking and we've never been in packaging business, we did provide a transportation, point A to Point B and now that people are They want one click and I just know that everything has to be taken care of.
So we did a deal.
Like we've never done before with Pinehurst golf course in the East Coast and we are now offering flights from Dallas and Westchester County, New York to Pinehurst and the entire thing is included.
You know, so you get it's a package deal.
Like I said, I never thought we'd be in the packaging business but now we are.
And it's an amazing deal we call their friends at Penshurst and they cut their rates we cut our airfare.
And so now you can go from either New York or Dallas to three or four nights in Penshurst and you get three, you get the hotels included.
three meals, breakfast, three meals, dinner, three rounds of golf including guarantee and number two which is the story of course at Penshurst.
Airport transportation so like everything that you know not just the little private lounge not just the airplane but the bus that picks you up is gonna be clean.
For me Stan is gonna clean the place, he is going to clean the golf course obviously in the great outdoors and you're constantly wiped down So, packaging all of that together, turned out to be super important to stimulate people and give them kind of let themselves give ourselves permission to book.
So, you mentioned this earlier you talked about your boarding experience.
I mean, from what I understand Jeff's exported X's boarding experiences.
Different than an alleviate some of the concerns people might find on a traditional airline in the sense that they're not going through really crowded security queue they're not sitting in a gate area with a ton of other people.
Can you talk a little about your board your you're on before you get on the plane, that process and how The precautions you're taking for COVID-19>> Yeah, absolutely.
I mean, we call it a hop on jet service because it really is as easy as getting out of your car and jumping on the airplane.
And you can do it in as little as 15 minutes now Okay, so a 15 minute 20 minute Next before the flight, you'll make the flight without breaking a sweat.
No one's gonna be mad at you for being late.
There's no gauntlets around.
There's no lines to stand in.
There is security, but it's done by us and not by a federal agency.
It's approved by a federal agency to be clear.
And it is a thorough and I would argue, I would say arguably more thorough screening process.
We've added to that now too, as part of our Simpli-Fly program post COVID, some new things like a smart camera that measures your temperature and alerts us if anyone's over 100.3.
And we also have the passive metal detection and explosive trace detection systems that we've been using through our history to keep our airplanes safe.
And so we've been able to add on those those extra levels of cleanliness and temperature detection without taking away from the ease of the products and the ease of the service.
And getting out of the car and onto the airplane so quickly.
So, small is beautiful.
There's only 30 people getting on an airplane, there's only 10 rows on the airplane, even in the last row.
By the way, you know the biggest differences between a private jet and commercial jet Overhead bins, okay, so there are no overhead bins on a private jet and so there are over bins on a JSX aeroplane either.
So, your bags or you can take your carry on bags or backpack versus things like that, but Anything bigger your wheelie bags will get checked for you and be brought back to the side of the plane down the wing.
When you arrive your destination, you pick it up and go.
There's no baggage claim area.
By the way, we also wipe out your handles wherever we touch your bag gets wiped off, both after guests on the airplane and when it's delivered to you back on the ground.
So, but back to the boarding experience which you were asking about.
We can literally board the entire airplane all 30 people if it's full in 90 seconds because there's no one that's gonna try to drop a bag in your head as they're trying to shove it in the overhead bin, drag them up down the aisles and spin this in the aisle looking for the place to stow their bag.
That's probably something to carry on board anyway.
All that stuff goes away.
You just get on and you sit down.
I mean, when you leave a movie theater, it can be to 300 people a movie theater It doesn't take 15 minutes to get up to get out of movie theater but for some reason it does take that long to get out of a commercial airplane.
And my theory is it's all about the bags that people are trying to drag on and off and so not only is it less like a gearhead bunks or have somebody breathing over you standing over you're trying to show the bag in.
It's just so much more civilized you get on the airplane, you sit down, the door closes, the engine starts and off you go.
So, whether you're Bill Gates in your private jet or whether your JSX customer, the time they spend on the ground is about the same.
And then once you're on board, is it what kind of progression ticket are masks required or senior fogging and disinfecting the planes?
What are you doing what's supposed people get on?
We You know, we only have 30 people in the airplane they certainly was built for 50.
You know, so we were social distancing before that was cool.
And, you know, so you already have a much higher airflow per passenger than you would have on a commercial Jet.
By the way, the airplane, the air in the cabin turns over every three minutes, which is about 10 times faster than it does.
The building I'm sitting right now it's probably three times an hour versus, you know Versus every three minutes.
We had increased the sterilization in our lounges and on the airplanes.
We've touched, touch we check in process as part of our simplify.
So it's not just the the thermal cameras, but it's also you hold your own ID in front of the ID reader, as opposed to handing it to us so there's few, there's less Transactioning of things back and forth.
So now we ask our guests to pour their own drinks as opposed to pouring them for them, and we have complimentary sanitizer wipes onboard the airplane.
So if you wanna wipe down your space even more thoroughly, you can do that.
And the whole process has been has been re engineered to the to minimize the touch points now actually forgotten your original question now but I think I may be addressed it.
I'm sorry but masks are required or?
Yeah sorry masks.
So masks absolutely required onboard and like other air carriers we've taken a position that if you're You know a libertarian or you think you know it's you shouldn't be asked to wear a mask you know, that's fine you can go practice your right to not wear a mask but when not not on our airplanes now because enough people feel much more comfortable and everyone was wearing one well we don't know who has this disease and even though we you know we screen for all the things that we can, obviously really symptomatic then you're not going to be presenting But you may be shedding the virus and we just if there's any possibility that you know we're going to insist that our customers you know, wear that mask and I have a beard from time to time my mask does have a beard on it.
And they come to the cabin crew wearing masks as well.
Now everyone on board is wearing masks the pilots may take them off after the cockpit doors closed because they don't interfere with their their duties and abilities oxygen and other things.
But everybody in the cabin is gonna wear a mask and if you're not wearing a mask on board JSX you may not be invited back to class again.
And you mentioned the cabin air changing over 30 or 33 minutes sorry.
That's I assume using your aircraft using the same type of filters.
You see on On an airline commercial aircraft.
Yes, but ours are newer and cleaner than theirs.
But yes, we have heavy filters on the aeroplanes, for the cabin air and we do, as I said, have a mass volume of air that's much higher on a per passenger basis.
We have customers on passengers, but we're talking about people sitting in aeroplanes, so There's much more fresh air per customer coming through the cabinet JSX flight and there isn't any competitor in the domestic US market.
Could you talk a little more about just kind of how that how those filters work?
Sort of for seminars?
No Yeah, absolutely.
I mean, I have a filter.
It's a high efficiency particulate guy with a sense, we're now accumulator mid perhaps.
And it basically takes out you know, microscopic pollutants from the air including this virus and this it's been proven that the misfires and other flu flu viruses are contained by this filter as well.
But the filter it actually only filters a small portion of the air because so much of the air is refreshed.
We have a constant stream.
In our planes if you turn on that little gas valve, it's above you.
That's virtually 100% fresh air coming in onto your face and there's already a doubt in the entire system is built so that the airflow the fresh air comes from the top of the cabin.
It's not a front to back circulation, it's an up to down circulation.
So all the air is coming from above you and going into floor vents below you.
And the planes were designed that way.
There was a lot of concern about 10 years ago about you know the quality of cabin air.
And in that time these filters have been introduced and All the aeroplanes that are now configured so that air you know comes from top to bottom.
So, if someone three rows in front of you is coughing, ideally that the results of that cough are going down to the floor as opposed to you know, gotten.
On the aisle.
I think a lot of people they think that the failure there kind of comes front to back but as you're saying yes, or.
It makes sense since the reason that's how it is in your car if you open the window, right but, in fact, if you look at the actual dynamic airflow in the airplane is very much tied to top up to down.>>Getting back to the aircraft or saying what kind of aircraft is JSX use and what I Would I likely, I mean, are they unique to what I ordered?
I find those aircraft in, you know, their passenger sort of situations.
So, you can find the airplane you can find the other airplane in other air carriers.
We find the Embraer 145 and 135 model.
Same airplane just different links, the two Pacific two different lengths.
And the airplane was built for commercial service initially.
There's a private jet version of it to call the legacy 650.
And I would say ours is more like that than it is like the commercial version.
and if you're flying commercially, it's probably your least favorite airplane because it's just The way that our competitors fight it's very tight in the aisle, and there's not a whole lot of leg room.
And there's tiny little overhead bands and they're often not big enough for your bag.
So you wanna check your bag anyway.
But when we get them, we got them completely so they're highly modified for JSX We take out all those plastic panels on the side we replace it with soft leather side walls, take leather side walls and ceiling panels, which is much brighter and easier to clean.
We take out those gross yellow light bulbs you know there are so many old the older airplanes, and we replaced them with bright white LED lights and it also feels like a very modern cabin.
You would think you're in a brand new airplane by the time we're done with it, you know the seats are.
We take out 10 of the seats 10 to 22 seats depending on the airplane 20 seats in the 145,
And we replace the all the leathers is recovered.
Covered on the seats themselves, we repitched, so you've got lots of leg room.
I'm 6'1, I can easily cross my legs in any row on the airplane.
And the biggest thing is we take out the overhead bins and we replace those with just a big open cabin.
So when you're sitting, you're not kinda confined with the ceiling just a couple of inches above your head, but you actually have some headroom.
So it is the, the bare bones of the airplane and it's a very, very safe airplane, by the way, over 28 million flight hours, so zero fatalities, kind of what?
So, arguably the safest commercial airplane in the sky.
But our version of it is much more commodious inside.
Right so the embarrassed I have flown on those in like, you know to express American ego like, you know done this before, right?>> You won't recognize it when you come on ours.
It's your CD one two then like when I when my own and two were funny you asked.
Yes The seating is currently one two across the fleet.
We're looking at some different configurations where we can potentially so there aren't there are no middle seats at all.
But we're looking at some configurations where we could potentially guarantee that you'll never sit next to anybody but as it is today, you know, a third of our customers are are flying alone.
And you know, they typically booked that single seat on the left hand side of the plane.
So there is no one next to them.
And the other two thirds of our customers tend to fly with someone else.
And so, math works out pretty well right now.
So you know, if you're Sitting next to somebody, hopefully somebody you know.
So you're not officially blocking seats but you're just finding that the way people are booking their book.
They're basically kind of self selecting to sit apart from each other.
And then once they're onboard, what kind of technology Do you offer is that Wi Fi, power?
So we do have power to every single seat.
Some of them are in the armrest, if you're in that B seat.
And they're in the sidewalls if you're on the sides of the airplane.
And so it's a full 110 circuit, so whatever kind of device you got.
It's not a USB, which you know, now we're going to USB-C are kind of useless to a lot of us now.
So it's about 110 outlet and you can plug in any 110 device into it.
we're experimenting right now we've got a test going with our friends at Gogo business aviation and their new advanced five system.
And we have that installed on one airplane that we're trialing right now and then we Previously announced a deal with smart sky.
And smart sky is a next generation in flight Wi Fi and so we're going to put them head to head and see which one which one works best for our customers.
So currently, it's not Not across the whole fleet.
But hopefully by this time next year, we'll have it everywhere.
Hopefully, things here ramp up, we kinda return to some sense of normalcy as far as travel goes.
But what is next for JSX, say any new destinations, new aircraft, new services?
Yes, yes, and yes.
We're a rapidly growing company, we're well capitalized.
We've got Lots of deep pocketed investors both family offices.
JetBlue is in order and Qatar Airways is an owner.
And they see, and most importantly, our customers our biggest investors now, and our customers love us.
We have a net promoter score above 990.
In an industry that has an average net promoter score of 35.
So we are more than double the popularity and favoring among our customers, we're basically our competitors.
And that says a lot and it gives us a lot of confidence that we can grow this brand across the country in the coming years One of the side effects of this COVID tragedy is that some of the airplanes that we'd like to buy, were going to become a little bit cheaper in the market so, and some of the markets that we like to serve, like smaller markets are actually being dropped by the majors.
So when delta drops Aspen and American drops Oakland, those create opportunities for us.
So we're gonna get more of those airplanes.
We're gonna fly into those markets that are now out of favor with the big network carriers and so on.
There's, there's maybe some structural opportunities for JSX here that don't exist for others and we tend to take full advantage of those and we're experimenting now, with a little bit of fun on the East Coast with this Pinehurst deal.
It's not, not a very frickin service but, you know, we want to bring the JSX brand throughout the country but right now we're gonna really, really focus on the Southwest and Once again, start building out our schedule there.
And, you know, the key for us will be to not **** it up and make sure that we don't grow so fast that we can't offer the level of service that our customers deserve and require.>> I could put in a personal plea for Portland or Seattle.
I'd like to thank Yeah, we were in Seattle, and it was one of the first markets we dropped, you know, post COVID.
But our team in Seattle is one of the best and we fly to the big airport there
Which is so great.
Just five miles from downtown, so it's super convenient.
I won't be surprised to see Seattle back in the mark, back on the map.
In the next few weeks, actually.
Maybe we'll go to Vegas instead of Oakland this time, but you know, we're taking a very hard look at that.
Portland we actually had a lounge built there and ready to go for us.
We were going to start flying Seattle to Portland, maybe Portland Oakland as well.
That's on the back burner for now.
But but we can go back in there and we have a number of new route announcements coming out to in the next next 14 days or so almost all in the southwest.
Western Southwest, but but you're on the shortlist.>> And before we let you go anything else that you wanted to, you wanted to talk about or anything else that you'd like us to know?
As I said earlier, things that were unique about JSX, pre cobit or perhaps even more relevant now and I just want people to know that you know, when you're ready to go out, fly again, we're doing our Best in a way are very very small contained service areas and our lounges and our airplanes to make sure that it's the safest possible for you so you can get comfort that when you are ready that will be there for you.
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