The Federal Aviation Administration plans to impose tougher safety requirements on public charter airlines such as Dallas-based JSX, a move toward closing what critics have called a loophole in US aviation rules. 

The new regulations aim to ensure that public charters that effectively operate like a typical commercial airline abide by the same safety rules, the FAA said in a statement on Monday. JSX markets itself as “the ultimate travel hack” because passengers can bypass airport crowds and security lines.

“If a company is effectively operating as a scheduled airline, the FAA needs to determine whether those operations should follow the same stringent rules as scheduled airlines,” FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said in the statement.

The rise in popularity of operations like JSX and whether they pose any safety or security risks has split the industry. Critics have said JSX and others like it exploit a loophole in current rules, allowing them to operate scheduled flights like large airlines under less-stringent standards intended to govern private charter operations.

Proponents have argued for keeping the status quo since such carriers serve small cities and provide a pipeline for pilots. JSX has also attracted big backers in the industry, with United Airlines Holdings Inc. and JetBlue Airways Corp. among its investors. 

The move announced Monday comes after the regulator solicited feedback on potential rule changes in August, leading to about 60,000 comments from other airlines, unions, airports, cities and travelers.

“As the country’s largest public charter air carrier, JSX has modeled the way forward for safe, secure, and reliable regional operations,” JSX said in a statement. “We eagerly look forward to collaborating with our regulators to cement the importance of public charters and expand access to vital air connectivity in the future.”

Public charter carriers such as JSX and others offer regularly scheduled flights from smaller, private terminals. While limited to carrying 30 passengers per flight, they aren’t subject to rules requiring pilots to have a minimum of 1,500 flying hours and a mandatory retirement age of 65. 

Their passengers also don’t have to go through the type of security screenings as customers flying on commercial carriers. JSX swabs bags for explosives and passengers walk through a weapons detector, but there are no Transportation Security Administration agents like with commercial carriers.

The TSA earlier proposed developing standards similar to those already in place for larger private charter operators. That includes use of metal detectors and X-ray systems and specific security training, including TSA-approved instruction for passenger screeners, according to NATA Compliance Services, which helps aviation companies comply with regulatory standards. 

JSX has waged a publicity campaign accusing critics American Airlines Group Inc. and Southwest Airlines Co. of pressuring the government to crush its business model and deny the flying public more choices.

The two larger airlines have denied any anti-competitive motive, saying they simply seek a uniform standard for regularly scheduled public flight operators.

The Air Line Pilots Association union praised the FAA’s decision to close what it called the “public charter loophole.” 

“No matter where you’re flying or what airline you’re on, all Americans deserve the same level of safety and security,” ALPA President Jason Ambrosi said in a statement. The union represents cockpit crews at several carriers including Delta Air Lines Inc. and United. 

The FAA and the TSA last year began reviewing whether standards for public charter carriers should be revised after the FAA said their rapid expansion would pose “an increased risk to safety if left unchecked.”

The FAA said it plans to issue its new rule “expeditiously” and that the proposal would seek comment on an effective date that would give the industry enough time to adapt. 

At the same time, the aviation safety regulator will convene a panel to study the possibility of adjusting rules governing commuter and charter operations to allow for scheduled flights on aircraft that can carry between 10 and 30 passengers. Scheduled service under those rules today is restricted to planes carrying 9 or fewer people. 

Changing the rules could lead to more access to flights for people near small and rural communities, a priority for the Biden administration, Whitaker said at an event in Washington on Monday. 

“The current structure was put in place in the 90’s and it’s time to really look at that again,” he said.