No International Flights

Gerrie Schipske

Now that the dust has settled, I think it is important that we calmly revisit the issue of whether of why an international terminal would not be “right” for Long Beach and its airport.

First of all a disclaimer: I like JetBlue. I fly JetBlue whenever I have the chance. I also partnered with them to bring the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the first transcontinental flight to Long Beach in 2011. Because of their generosity we have a scaled replica of the “Vin Fiz” that flew into Long Beach in 1911 hanging from the ceiling in the lobby of the arena.

JetBlue has stepped up to assist a number of organizations in our city. They have tried to be a good corporate neighbor but may have gotten carried away with what they thought that “good will” would facilitate.

It was no secret from the moment that the terminals at Long Beach Municipal Airport were renovated in 2013, that JetBlue was beginning to reassess its market. At a dinner meeting of their board of directors as part of the celebration of the renovations in Long Beach, there was much discussion about the “south of the border” market and the use of smaller, quieter planes to accommodate the number of passengers wanting to fly to Mexico, Central America and beyond. That dinner was not attended by the then mayor because JetBlue had angered him with their criticism of how long it took to finish the modernization of the airport.

JetBlue argued that to be able to utilize Long Beach as a “hub” for the international travel, a customs facility would have to be built and the federal government would have to approve staffing it with customs and immigration officers. JetBlue understood that the city airport was in no position to fund the construction of a facility and indicated it would front the funds against its “rent” credits.

Apparently, JetBlue officials pursued that conversation with city management and the airport director, who unfortunately, left to take over a mid-west airport. The issue was never officially brought before the city council until 2016, when council instructed management to conduct a $347,000 study about the financial impact of a customs facility.

JetBlue made some very serious mistakes in moving this issue forward:

  • It made contributions – for the first time – to elected officials’ office holder accounts that shaded the support of those who took the contributions
  • It (and its supporters on the city council and in city management) only focused upon the financial impacts of the customs facility
  • It did not meet and confer with the neighborhood groups that had worked so diligently in containing the size of the airport modernization and had also worked to preserve the city’s airport noise ordinance
  • It did not meet and confer with residents who are currently impacted by noise and air pollution caused by the airport
  • It ignored the possible legal challenges that would be brought against the city by other carriers and the air cargo industry who would want access to the customs facility and find the noise ordinance restrictive and
  • It ignored the controversy of making Long Beach an arrival spot for foreign travelers at a time of increasing concerns.

Even if JetBlue were to correct its mistakes with a “do-over,” an international customs facility is not right for Long Beach because:

The City of Long Beach’s airport noise ordinance is sacrosanct. It is what keeps Long Beach from becoming like the neighborhoods of Westchester and Inglewood that are faced with a daily barrage of aircraft flying over homes. Anything that threatens the ordinance must be rejected.

Neighborhoods should be our first priority in the city. Real estate values need to be protected and anything that might increase air, car or trucks carrying cargo, must not be allowed.

The Los Angeles-Long Beach area is choking on air pollution caused mainly by our ports, freeways and airports. If anything, sources of pollution need to be reduced, not added.


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