UPDATE: JetBlue to give up 10 flight spots after city threatens penalties

UPDATE | JetBlue, the largest carrier at Long Beach Airport, will give up 10 of its 34 flight spots after the city threatened action over the fact that JetBlue is not using them.

In a statement late Tuesday, City Manager Pat West said the city will immediately make those flight spots available to other carriers, including Hawaiian Airlines (which would get first priority), followed by Delta and Southwest.

“We expect very strong demand from airlines currently operating at Long Beach Airport for each of the 10 flight spots that were made available today,” he wrote.

Each carrier on the waiting list will be offered one slot, and the process will repeat in turn from top to bottom until all slots are allocated or until demand is satisfied, West said.

JetBlue and the city have been clashing since the airline asked to build an international terminal in 2017, which the city denied. The two have also squabbled over late night flight violations since then.

The city noted in its Tuesday statement that passenger activity has grown over 57 percent since 2015, saying it is the result of “increased air carrier competition with the introduction of Southwest and Hawaiian.”

Roughly four million passengers flew out of LGB last year.

Previously: JetBlue ‘not on pace’ to meet new slot requirements; penalties may come soon

JetBlue may be facing penalties from the Long Beach Airport—including the possible reduction of unused flight slots—after a recent memo from the city manager revealed the airline was “not on pace” to meet new rules that went into effect Jan. 1.

The new rules require airlines to use at least 85 percent of their daily flight slots during a calendar year, with the monthly use minimum at 60 percent and the quarterly use minimum at 70 percent.

When the new rules were being considered, JetBlue called the changes “discriminatory,” saying they were aimed squarely at them, but the city said it was to ensure airlines are not “slot squatting” to keep competitors from entering the airport or being awarded more slots.

In an April 3 memo by City Manager Pat West addressed to the City Council and mayor, JetBlue was identified as not being on pace to meet the minimum use requirement of 70 percent for the first calendar quarter of 2019.

The memo stated that air carriers were sent letters in late March on the new changes and associated penalties, including: “being disqualified from utilizing slots, having their unused slot allocations reduced, or being disqualified from receiving supplemental flight slot allocations.”

If any permanent flight slots become available, Hawaiian Airlines would be first in line to receive those slots, followed by Delta, JetBlue and Southwest. If any supplemental flight slots become available, Delta would get first dibs, followed by JetBlue, Southwest and Hawaiian.

A separate letter was also sent to JetBlue by Claudia Lewis, the airport’s interim director, informing the operator of the amendments and penalties as well as requesting information on how the company planned to comply with the requirements.

Robert Land, JetBlue’s senior vice president of government affairs, declined to comment. The company’s corporate communications office released a statement saying that the new requirement is unnecessary because there are numerous unused flight slots already available, adding that “we remain committed to providing a level of flying in Long Beach that the market will support.”

It is unclear which penalties will be implemented or how soon. Long Beach Airport officials directed questions to the city manager’s office, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Support our journalism.

Hyperlocal news is an essential force in our democracy, but it costs money to keep an organization like this one alive, and we can’t rely on advertiser support alone. That’s why we’re asking readers like you to support our independent, fact-based journalism. We know you like it—that’s why you’re here. Help us keep hyperlocal news alive in Long Beach.