JetBlue’s strategic retreat from Long Beach now positions Southwest Airlines to become the airport’s largest airline.
It was only in June 2016 when Southwest began serving Long Beach (LGB) with four daily flights. But thanks to quieter aircraft and a scale down of service from JetBlue, it has continued to grow its presence.
Quite the opposite from JetBlue, which once had a bustling hub including 24 permanent flight slots at LGB. But as the JetBlue business model matures, Long Beach has fit less into the equation. The carrier is down to 17 daily flights and even some of those flights may not survive long-term.
While JetBlue fought bitterly to squat on seven slots that were essentially unused, the airport’s 2018 “use it or lose it” rule eventually forced it to give back the slots. Ironically, those strict slot usage requirements have currently been suspended until October 24, 2020 due to COVID-19, though too late for JetBlue.
Those seven slots were absorbed by Southwest (3), Delta (3), and Hawaiian (1). The airport limits the number of daily flights to 53 due to noise and pollution concerns, but Southwest’s schedule includes quieter aircraft and no red eye service, which has helped it to acquire 17 slots over the last four years.
Most flights are now suspended, but once service resumes it would not be surprising to see Southwest eclipse JetBlue in terms of passengers traffic.
Here’s a look at the current slot allocations at Long Beach (more info here):
Historically, I’ve always viewed Long Beach as a JetBlue stronghold. That picture is changing, as JetBlue focuses on LAX and Southwest expands its intra-California and regional service from LGB.
image: Tomás Del Coro / Wikimedia Commons