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|(July 9, 2020, updated from breaking) -- JetBlue announced today (July 9) that it will end its flights from Long Beach Airport on October 6 and will make LAX is primary base of operations for the greater LA area.
"To enable the shift, the airline will move service currently operated at Long Beach Airport (LGB) to LAX, along with its Long Beach crew and maintenance bases, beginning in October," said a company release.
"JetBlue’s final day of operations in Long Beach will be October 6. Service to Portland International Airport (PDX) will not transition to LAX. JetBlue will continue to serve Portland, Ore. from New York-JFK, Boston and, starting in October, Fort Lauderdale."
"Elsewhere in greater Los Angeles, JetBlue will continue to serve Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR) and Ontario International Airport (ONT), which are key to the airline’s broader LA strategy," a company release said.
JetBlue's exit will free up flight slots. Southwest and other carriers have previously picked up those slots in other recent moves.
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JetBlue became LGB's largest commercial carrier in 2001 through an action stealthfully engineered under Mayor Beverly O'Neill (which nearly cost the CIty its valued grandfathering protecting for local control.) An item quietly appeared on a Council agenda to allow carriers to hold flight slots longer before flying them; the Council approved it; and within hours JetBlue took all then vacant flight slots. (It soon became know that the move had been coordinate with JetBlue.)
The City's action angered other carriers, who at one point appeared prepared to challenge LB's airport ordinance (that protects LB from unlimited flights on all runways at all hours.) Public meetings were held (in the 4th and 8th districts) at which residents voiced alarm over the turn of events. The other carriers ultimately stopped short of a full scale lawsuit and instead launched an administrative complaint process with the FAA.
LB City Attorney Bob Shannon moved swiftly to hire veteran aviation counsel Mike Gatzke and the situation ended with the FAA issuing a sternly worded letter directing the City to undo its initial flight slot action. JetBlue agreed to give up some of its slots but still dominated flight operations at LGB, leverage it continued to exert. .
JetBlue pressed Long Beach to upgrade the Airport's permanent terminal facilities and city management proposed an expanded size significantly larger than LB Airport ever had. In response, 8th district resident Rae Gabelich create LBHUSH2 and teamed with ELB realtor Joe Sopo's "Neighborhoods First" to support an airport upgrade they said would balance airport operations with quality of life for neighborhoods...and avoid creating unnecessary capacity that could create pressure for more flights.
In 2004, Ms. Gabelich also sought and won the 8th district City Council seat giving her (and newly elected 4th dist. Councilman Patrick O'Donnell) the opportunity to participate in votes setting City policy.
Councilwoman Gabelich and LBUSH2/Neighborhoods First didn't oppose an Airport upgrade but sought to limit its size to avoid inviting flights beyond those allowed under LB's protective Airport ordinance. (At one point, JetBlue helped create a so-called "Long Beach Alliance" that attacked LBHUSH2 and said failing to accommodate JetBlue could put the city on a path toward litigation.)
After multiple polarized public hearings, the City Council approved permanent Airport terminal upgrades in a size that management acknowledged would be sufficient although it was smaller than aviation interests favored .
The net result is what LB has today: a boutique size airport that has won praises from travelers for its easy-in/easy out convenience.
In 2016, JetBlue pressed the city to allow a customs facility that would effectively turn LGB into an international airport (which would been legally open to multiple international carriers.) City management and Airport management supported the company's request as did the LB Area Chamber of Commerce.
But residents noted that allowing a customs facility would effectively invite an entirely new class of carriers to seek LB Airport flight slots, who would have an incentive to push for airport expansion and challenge LB's Airport ordinance that currently protects the City from operations on all runways at all hours.
In a dramatic early January 2017 action (LBREPORT.com coverage here), the Council voted 8-1 (Andrews dissenting) not to allow a customs facility that could accommodate international flights.
Following that vote, residents began focusing on JetBlue's continuing violations of the City's late night flight curfew. (JetBlue's business model used aircraft traveling across the country, sometimes resulting flights at day's end that went beyond LGB's nighttime curfew.)
In previous years, the City Prosecutor's office and JetBlue entered into a consent decree in which JetBlue agreed to pay sums to the LB Library Foundation if its flights exceeded curfew hours. After the international flights controversy, residents pressed for further deterrence and JetBlue agreed to pay a higher consent decree sum its late night flights (received by the LB Library Foundation.)
The City then adopted new "use 'em or lose 'em" flight slot rules to deter carriers (notably JetBlue) from "slot squatting" (holding flight slots without fully using them.) That flight slot rule change resulted in JetBlue ultimately giving up some of its slots, which Southwest Airlines quickly filled.
Today's (July 9) announcement by JetBlue shifting its operations from LGB for LAX caps that 19 year process.
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