American Airlines Plans New Flights June 15, Reiterates Demand For 4 More Final LB Airport Flight Slots...And Questions Whether LB's Flight Limits Are Legal Under Federal Law
AA says it hopes flight slot request "can be resolved quickly and without the need for legal action"; Airport refers AA letter to City Attorney
(March 22, 2002) -- Charting a possible collision course with the City of LB with potential ramifications far exceeding plans for four additional flights, American Airlines today issued a press release that, in its words, "reconfirmed" the company's "plans to begin nonstop service twice a day" between LB and both Chicago (O'Hare) and NY (JFK) starting June 15 and quoted a letter from the company that questions "whether [LB's] the locally imposed slot constraints are consistent with federal law."
The latter contention could go far beyond four slots being sought by American Airlines because it questions whether LB can limit flights and noise as it has done.
The American Airlines release says that starting June 15, LB to Chicago service "will be flown with 129-seat Super 80s" and LB-JFK flights "will be operated with 176-seat Boeing 757s."
However, there are no flight slots currently available under LB's airport noise ordinance.
The release quotes part of a March 19, 2002 letter from American Airlines VP for Planning Walter Aue to LB Airport as stating: "We continue to hope that our modest request for four slots can be resolved quickly and without the need for legal action."
LBReport.com has learned that the correspondence, received today, has been referred to the City Attorney's office.
We post extended portions of American Airline's press release verbatim, below.
[begin excerpt of release text]
To operate the new [LB-Chicago and LB-NY] routes, American has formally asked the Long Beach Airport to permanently assign to American four additional slots from a pool of slots that is currently unused. Americanís existing slots are used to operate four flights a day between Long Beach and Americanís largest connecting hub at Dallas/Fort Worth.
"We see growing demand for service at Long Beach," said Walter J. Aue, Americanís vice president - Capacity Planning. "Our new schedule would add competition to the Long Beach-JFK route and would give Long Beach travelers important new access to Chicago OíHare, another of our major connecting hubs."
In its original request for the added slots, American said it was seeking them as permanent "final slots" so as not to risk losing them in the future after having invested heavily to make the two new routes a success.
On March 8, the Long Beach airport responded to American by saying that all the airportís slots are allocated, but that the airport would canvas the other carriers to see if any of them are willing to forfeit slots so American can use them.
A second letter, on March 19, offered American some of Long Beachís 25 commuter/RJ slots.
In a letter to the airport today, Aue restated Americanís request for the four slots, noting that only 17 of Long Beachís 41 slots are currently being used. The letter said, in part:
"We continue to hope that our modest request for four slots can be resolved quickly and without the need for legal action. However, we intend to operate MD-80 aircraft that would not qualify for regional jet slots under your existing resolution. Moreover, we are not willing to invest the time, money, and effort required to develop new service at Long Beach only to lose the right to operate that service at the option of one of our competitors. Temporary slot authority is not a reasonable accommodation of our federally guaranteed right to compete at Long Beach.
"Although we have no objection to...asking other carriers if they are willing to forfeit their slots, it is the City of Long Beachís obligation to provide all carriers with non-discriminatory access to the airport. That obligation cannot be defeated by separate contracts with carriers or by local laws. We have no doubt that (the) agreement to give one airline a two-year option on two-thirds of the airportís capacity violates federal law - particularly when that agreement prevents us and other carriers from offering new service. With only 17 of 41 slots in use, we do not believe that Long Beach is a capacity-constrained airport and, therefore, must be open to all carriers on a non-discriminatory basis. Moreover, to the extent that Long Beach intends to take the position that it has no more slots available, we question whether the locally imposed slot constraints are consistent with federal law.
"We plan on introducing our new service on June 15. We look forward to your response next week and hope that the City will fulfill its obligation under federal law to ensure that all carriers have a right to bring new service to your community."
[end excerpt of release text]
American Airlines' release says it discontinued its LB-Chicago route in September 2000 "because of disappointing traffic, but the airline expects better results now as airports like Long Beach gain popularity with a wider array of travelers. Meanwhile, Americanís flights to and from JFK will give Long Beach customers a convenient new way to fly nonstop to New York, where they can also connect with overseas flights by American to points in Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean."
As previously reported by LBReport.com, in a February 22 letter American Airlines asked LB Airport to provide four additional flight slots. However, since all allowable LB flight slots for planes over 75,000 pounds are currently filled (reserved or flying), LB Airport indicated it would ask other carriers if they were willing to give up their flight slots.
If another solution within current flight limits cannot be found, the City Council could face its first test -- just weeks before upcoming city elections -- of assurances made by Mayor Beverly O'Neill and several incumbent Councilmembers that City Hall will adhere to the flight limits in the Council-enacted Airport ordinance.
The City Council's next meeting on March 29 will be held in the 4th district at Stanford Middle School (5871 Los Arcos St.) in the Airport impacted Los Altos area.
LB's Airport ordinance, approved by a federal court in settlement of previous legal challenges, limits daily flights over 75,000 pounds to 41 per day subject to a noise budget system (i.e. increased flights are only allowed if total annual measured noise drops below certain levels). Flights under 75,000 pounds are limited to 25 per day within a noise budget.
Posted as breaking news. Developing.