(December 26, 2005) -- No, it wasn't a Silent Night on Christmas in ELB and Bixby Knolls. JetBlue Airways had a late-night take off (11:01 p.m. Dec. 25) and very late post-midnight arrival (12:35 a.m. Dec. 26).
The carrier's website says JetBlue flight 255 from LB to Washington, D.C. (Dulles), which was supposed to leave LB at 9:30 p.m. December 25, instead took off at 11:01 p.m.
JetBlue flight 217 from NYC's JFK Airport to LB, which was supposed to arrive in LB December 25 at 9:50 p.m., instead arrived at 12:35 a.m. on December 26.
In a Christmas Day announcement posted on its website, JetBlue said it had "experienced significant delays this morning [Dec. 25] due to low visibility, and the airline expects delays throughout the day as a result."
JetBlue spokeswoman Jenny Dervin also told LBReport.com that JFK's runway indicators were not working properly for part of the day which contributed to delays throughout the day. "We tried to minimize the delays as much as possible but anything into or out of JFK was affected yesterday [Dec. 25]," Ms. Dervin said. [On its website, the carrier offered to waive change fees and any fare differences allowing its customers booked for Dec. 25 travel to or from JFK Airport to postpone their plans if they rebook and travel by December 28.]
Under LB's Airport Ordinance, scheduled commercial flights flights end at 10:00 p.m. although Airport management can excuse flights between 10:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. if the carrier shows the operation was due to factors including weather, maintenance or other specified items beyond the carrier's control.
Commercial flights after 11:00 p.m. are automatic violations and ordinarily subject to a $500 fine...but under a 2003 Consent Decree in a misdemeanor criminal case brought by LB City Prosecutor's office that alleged JetBlue had violated LB's noise ordinance on multiple occasions, the carrier pled nolo contendre (subject to details, below) and agreed to make stiffer than usual payments for future violations to settle the charges.
The Consent Decree, negotiated by office of City Prosecutor Tom Reeves, provides that from July 1, 2003 to June 30, 2006 (and subject to renewal in one year increments on notice by either party) JetBlue and City Hall will abide by a system in which JetBlue will pay $3,000 for each of the first six times in any calendar quarter it violates the pertinent section of LB's Airport Noise Ordinance; the amount escalates to $6,000 per violation for such violations thereafter in that calendar quarter.
Under the Consent Decree, these sums are payable to the non-profit LB Public Library Foundation...and JetBlue also agreed to pay the Library Foundation a lump sum of $90,000.
The Consent Decree sums exceed the noise ordinance's $500 maximum amount for each such violation (which can become $1,500 for each violation with penalty assessments) if a judge were to impose it [which is not always certain].
Under the Consent Decree, the City Prosecutor's office agreed to refrain from further criminal prosecution of JetBlue under the city's Airport Noise Ordinance provision for the duration of the Consent Decree or any renewal period. JetBlue agreed to plead nolo contendere to five noise violation counts with sentencing continued [deferred] for the duration of the Consent Decree. (Proceedings on other counts were suspended as long as JetBlue performs under the Consent Decree).
Upon completion of JetBlue's performance under the Consent Decree, the criminal complaint is to be dismissed...and JetBlue is permitted to withdraw its nolo contendere plea.
The Consent Decree notes that JetBlue "continues to deny each and all of the claims and contentions alleged in the complaint and expressly denies any wrongdoing or legal liability relating to the aforementioned incidents, and that entry into this Consent Decree is the most appropriate means of resolving the issues herein."
The Consent Decree was signed by JetBlue Airways VP Gov't Affairs, Assoc. Gen'l Counsel Robert C. Land, LB Deputy City Prosecutor, John Fentis...and JetBlue's attorney in the criminal matter, Robert S. Stemler of the powerhouse LB law firm of Keesal, Young & Logan.
As previously reported by LBReport.com, the law firm's named partner, Skip Keesal, is listed among an "advisory council" on the website of 3d district City Council candidate Gary DeLong. Mr. Keesal is also one of two "honorary co-chairs" named on the letterhead of City Attorney Bob Shannon's reelection campaign.
The law firm's elegant downtown office was also the site of a summer 2005 fundraiser for the "Long Beach Alliance," a group boosting enlargement (city management calls "improvements") of LB Airport's permanent terminal area facilities. Alliance reps barred media reps from the event, which was addressed by JetBlue CEO David Neeleman, unless they agreed to pay the minimum contribution sought from other attendees. [A PT reporter and LBReport.com both declined.]
The law firm was also the location of a November 2005 fundraiser for 3d district candidate DeLong...that Mr. DeLong told LBReport.com netted over $20,000 for his campaign.
In September 2005, on the same day as he made his public Mayoral candidacy announcement, Bob Foster (then departing as head of Southern CA Edison) held a fundraiser at Keesal, Young and Logan. Details of the contributors attending that event, requested informally from Mr. Foster by LBReport.com, have not been provided...but legally must be disclosed (by all candidates) on or before January 31, 2006.
Messrs. Foster and DeLong have both been endorsed by the LB Area Chamber of Commerce...which prominently features a link to the "Long Beach Alliance" on its website.
The developments come in the wake of an October 2005 item agendized by Councilmembers Tonia Reyes Uranga, Patrick O'Donnell and Rae Gabelich, asking the City Attorney and City Manager to review and report back within 45 days on the current fine structure for late night flights at LB Airport, the recent history of late night violations and LB's "bridge time" policy. The report has not yet been provided.