(August 5, 2003) -- Alaska Airlines has announced it will begin flying between Seattle and LB with three daily flights starting Dec. 14, filling LB Airport's 41 daily noise budget flight slots and replacing three commuter size flights operated by Horizon Air, which is part of the Alaska Air Group.
"We're delighted to once again serve Long Beach. It is one of the most user-friendly airports in Southern California -- easy access, easy parking and a great centralized location," said Don Garvett, Alaska's vice president of planning in a written release. "There's been a great demand from our customers. The larger Alaska Airlines planes will nearly double capacity," he added.
LB Airport spokesperson Sharon Diggs-Jackson said Horizon independently holds its three commuter flight slots...and although the Horizon flights currently go to Seattle (and will until Dec. 03), Horizon could use them to fly them elsewhere. Ms. Diggs-Jackson said Horizon hasn't advised the Airport of its future plans for its three commuter slots.
Alaska indicated in its release that it "hoped to begin service in September 2002 but was unable to secure permanent landing slots allocated to large jet operators. Horizon was able to step in and begin operations because authority to operate at Long Beach is different for aircraft of their size. Alaska has since obtained landing slots."
The release verbiage diplomatically refers to a situation created by a May 2001 City Council vote (8-1, Carroll dissenting seeking two week delay) that changed LB's flight slot allocation law to let carriers hold slots longer before flying. Shortly after the vote, JetBlue Airways announced it would take all 27 of the then-vacant LB Airport flight slots for large commercial aircraft.
The Council's May 2001 vote (motion by Councilwoman Kell) created litigation exposure for LB's airport ordinance and triggered FAA administrative involvement. Litigation exposure for the airport ordinance was dealt with in a settlement agreement, crafted by the City Attorney's office and city-retained aviation counsel, in which JetBlue gave up five slots and Alaska got two slots (and later won a third).
Although LB Airport's 41 noise budgeted flight slots for aircraft over 75,000 pounds are now filled, 22 of the Airport's 25 commuter flight slots for aircraft under 75,000 pounds remain available. City Hall says it is not marketing them (as it did with the large flight slots) at the present time.