JetBlue is no longer the largest carrier at LGB as Southwest picks up more flights

Long Beach Airport’s largest tenant is no longer JetBlue Airways after a permanent slot reallocation gave Southwest Airlines the same number of available daily flights as JetBlue.

By adding three new permanent flight slots, Southwest now holds 17 flight slots at Long Beach, with eight permanent and nine supplemental slots. JetBlue also holds 17 flights slots with all of its slots being permanent ones. Southwest began operating at Long Beach in June 2016 with just four daily flights.

Delta Airlines, which used to have three slots, and Hawaiian Airlines, which had one slot, also grew their presence at Long Beach during the process. Delta now holds 12 total flight slots and Hawaiian now has two, according to a memo sent from Long Beach Airport Director Cynthia Guidry to the city manager’s office last week.

Over the past few years the city has been able to add a number of supplemental flight slots, nearly all of which have been absorbed by Southwest as quieter planes and less late-night noise violations have contributed to room in the airport’s “noise buckets” which allowed for additional flights to be budgeted while staying under cumulative noise thresholds outlined by the city’s noise ordinance.

Simultaneously JetBlue has shed flight slots at Long Beach while the airline reconfigures its business model. It announced the relinquishment of the same seven flight slots that were redistributed this week as JetBlue cancelled service to Oakland entirely.

JetBlue previously held 24 permanent flight slots and a number of supplemental ones, but has reduced its offerings at Long Beach to 17 daily flights.

Southwest’s foothold at Long Beach could have been far greater if other airlines hadn’t also requested additional slots as Southwest moved to take over all seven of the slots given back by JetBlue. The move by Southwest comes as air traffic has nearly ground to a halt.

Traffic at the airport in general has taken a dramatic dip in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Traffic at Long Beach from Jan. 1 through the end of March was down 60% compared the same period last year.

Despite the City Council passing strict slot usage requirements and the Federal Aviation Administration having similar usage quotas, both the FAA and the city have granted temporary moratoriums on those marks as airlines struggle with COVID-19 impacts on demand for flights.

Guidry said in her memo that the city’s moratorium could extend to late October for all carriers operating out of Long Beach.

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.
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