Earlier this week JetBlue announced it would be leaving Long Beach (LGB) this autumn. The departure presents an opportunity for many carries, but especially for Southwest Airlines.
Southwest Airlines Growth Potential in Long Beach
Southwest Airlines launched service to Long Beach in June 2016 with service to Oakland. Over the last four years, it has grown to offer service to:
- Austin (AUS) – begins in November 2020
- Denver (DEN)
- Las Vegas (LAS)
- Oakland (OAK)
- Phoenix (PHX) – begins in November 2020
- Sacramento (SMF)
- San Jose (SJC)
JetBlue’s announced departure this October will open up many slots at the small facility serving a metropolis of millions of people, many of whom find the ease and tranquilly of Long Beach a preferred alternative to the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles International (LAX).
Southwest’s increasing fortunes at Long Beach came directly at JetBlue’s expense. Southwest’s pressure on the Oakland route forced JetBlue out…it abandoned the route earlier this year. Then JetBlue announced it would stop service to Sacramento and San Jose and limit service to Las Vegas. But with the pandemic further disrupting strategy, now JetBlue will be pulling out completely and focus exclusively on LAX. The causal link between Southwest’s ascent and JetBlue’s demise in Long Beach is hard to deny.
In May, even in the midst of COVID-19, Southwest announced it would add service to Austin and Phoenix beginning this November.
American, Delta, and Hawaiian are the other remaining carriers, offering limited flight options (American only to Phoenix, Delta to Las Vegas and Salt Lake City, and Hawaiian to Honolulu). If Southwest expands its Hawaiian operation to Long Beach, it will challenge all three incumbent carriers. Might we also see service to more Southwest cities in Texas and perhaps even further east?
That will depend upon how the pandemic develops in the months ahead, but if flight activity begins to rebound, it would not surprise me to see Southwest at least test the waters.
In one sense, Long Beach is perfect for Southwest. Long Beach has strict nighttime curfrews, but Southwest does not operate redeye flights.
JetBlue’s pain may be Southwest’s gain. There is great potential for Southwest Airlines in Long Beach and I predict we will see the carrier beef up service even more as it continues to build dominance in LGB.
image: Long Beach Airport