JetBlue Cuts Flights, Aims to Stay Top Carrier

Sean Belk

Even though JetBlue Airways has decided to reduce flights at Long Beach Airport– a decision influenced by the Long Beach City Council nixing a proposal for international service last year– the New York-based airline is committed to staying the airport’s top carrier, according to company officials.

“We are focused on doing what’s best for our JetBlue operation in Long Beach,” said JetBlue spokesperson Philip Stewart in an email sent to the Beachcomber. “We will continue to be the largest airline in Long Beach and we expect to remain the top choice for customers in Long Beach.”

On April 25, the airline announced a new West Coast strategy that includes: launching new service in three cities (Ontario, Calif., Steamboat Springs, Colo. and Bozeman, Mont.); increasing service in Burbank, Calif. with new nonstop flights to Boston; and “refining” its Long Beach schedule to “better meet the needs of the market.”

While Long Beach will be getting two new destinations (Steamboat Springs, Colo. and Bozeman, Mont.) beginning in December as well as new daylight flight service to Boston, JetBlue is relinquishing 12 daily flight slots, reducing its total slots at LGB from 35 to 23, according to a statement from the airline.

Starting Sept. 5, JetBlue will revise flight frequencies on Long Beach routes to Las Vegas, Oakland, Portland, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, San Jose and Seattle, according to the airline. Current flight frequencies of nonstop service to New York, Austin, Reno and Sacramento will remain unchanged.

JetBlue, which has serviced Long Beach since 2001 as the airport’s main air carrier, has not changed its daily flight slots at Long Beach Airport since being allocated additional slots in 2016, when the airport had increased its total allowable slots from 41 to 50 after a noise analysis declared cumulative noise levels from aircraft had decreased at the airport. Under the City’s noise ordinance, the airport is required to offer additional flight if noise levels fall below an allowable noise budget.

JetBlue’s decision to reduce flights at the airport comes nearly a year after the Long Beach City Council voted unanimously in February 2017 to nix a proposal to build a federal inspections services (FIS) facility that would have permitted international flights and U.S. Customs and Border Protection screening.

The airline had requested the proposal, expressing interest in international destinations, such as Mexico and South America. However, the proposal was met with opposition from residential neighborhood groups and city councilmembers, who stated that potential benefits wouldn’t justify such an investment.

In a recent email response, Stewart said JetBlue’s changes to flights at Long Beach Airport were primarily related to the City Council’s decision to not move forward with an FIS facility.

“It’s fair to say that the decision caused us to take a different path in Long Beach,” he said. “We were disappointed in the FIS decision, as we knew international options would have been good for customers and helped the profitability of our operation there. With the option of an FIS off the table, we needed to re-examine how we could improve our Long Beach performance by utilizing our domestic network.”

According to a statement from the City of Long Beach, however, JetBlue’s decision was not entirely a surprise, as a number of markets have presented “a challenge to achieve or maintain profitability under present service models.”

City officials said the airport will remain profitable for the foreseeable future and flight slots left by JetBlue “will quickly be filled,” as interest from other airlines remains strong.

“We are grateful for our long partnership with JetBlue at Long Beach Airport,” said Mayor Robert Garcia in the statement. “Despite their changes in service, the future looks great for the airport. We have strong interest to fill those slots from multiple carriers.”

According to city officials, Long Beach Airport has received interest from other carriers in additional flight slots and has already established a waiting list. Airlines currently on the waiting list include: Delta; Southwest, which introduced LGB service in 2016; and Hawaiian Airlines, which is anticipated to launch service to Honolulu on June 1.

As for JetBlue’s decision to reduce flights at Long Beach Airport, Stewart said flight changes will allow the airline to remain profitable and serve customers in current market conditions.

“Refinements in Long Beach set us up for success in Greater LA, with service to four airports and plays to JetBlue’s strength as a favorite choice for transcontinental travel,” he said. “The network enhancements are designed to better meet the needs of coast-to-coast travelers facing limited competition. The changes will also increase profitability of our LGB operation.”

In addition, Stewart said JetBlue will continue to operate a variety of routes within the western U.S., linking major metropolitan areas in Los Angeles, the Bay Area and Seattle. He said the reduction in inter-west flying allows JetBlue to “capitalize on and grow our successful transcon network, which we believe is especially in demand by customers in the West who are facing decreased competition.”



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