• Matt Esnayra

JetBlue is Departing LB Airport for LAX

Longtime Long Beach Airport tenant JetBlue Airlines announced Thursday, they are relocating to Los Angeles International Airport and making LAX its primary base of operations in the greater Los Angeles area.

  • JetBlue’s final day of operations in Long Beach will be October 6th, and flights to Portland won't transfer to LAX.

  • JetBlue plans to expand over the next five years to reach roughly 70 flights per day by 2025. These plans include multiple new markets, both domestic and international, some of which have never had nonstop service to and from LAX, the airline says.

But Why?

JetBlue has used Long Beach Airport for its primary west coast hub since arriving in 2001. Still, for the past few years, JetBlue and the City of Long Beach have disputed over fines resulting from the city's noise ordinance, flight-slot usage, and the Long Beach City Council voting down JetBlue's hopes of hosting international flights out of Long Beach Airport.

  • In May, JetBlue reported that revenue declined in the first quarter by 15.1% and a 52% decline in March revenue due to the impact of coronavirus pandemic.

  • This year, JetBlue cut flights from Long Beach Airport to Oakland and reduced services to Sacramento, San Jose, and Las Vegas, per LA Biz Journal.

  • In 2019, JetBlue gave up a third of its slots at Long Beach Airport to avoid city regulations.

The big picture:

It's no secret the travel industry has been battered by the economic fallout brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, especially the airline companies who received a $60 billion bailout by the federal government in CARES Act.

  • Legendary investor Warren Buffet sold nearly all of Berkshire Hathaway's airline shares in March.

What they're saying:

  • JetBlue spokesman Philip Stewart told MTLB: "The impact of COVID-19 on our industry has forced us to take a hard look at our remaining Long Beach Airport operation, which continues to financially underperform our network despite various efforts through the years – including seeking to bring international flights – in order to make the airport succeed. With new opportunities available to us at Los Angeles International Airport, we will move our remaining Long Beach flights, along with crew and maintenance bases, on October 7.  After nearly two decades, our last day of flying at Long Beach will be October 6. The move to LAX will help increase our revenue, which is essential as we work through a long and challenging coronavirus recovery. With LAX serving as the anchor of our Los Angeles focus city, we can fulfill our growth ambitions in greater LA and, in the longer term, offer international flying that is not possible in Long Beach. While we recognize it is bittersweet to say farewell to a community that’s been part of our company’s story from our earliest days, this move is the right one for JetBlue and our future as we think about our next decade of growth. We look forward to very bright days ahead as we continue to grow LAX where a warm welcome mat by the airport and the community has always greeted JetBlue."

  • Scott Laurence, head of revenue and planning at JetBlue said, "LAX is one of JetBlue’s most successful markets and offers the valuable opportunity to grow significantly both domestically and internationally while introducing our low fares on more routes,” and “The transition to LAX, serving as the anchor of our focus city strategy on the West Coast, sets JetBlue up for success in southern California. We continue to seize on opportunities to emerge from this pandemic a stronger competitive force in the industry.”

  • Cynthia Guidry, Long Beach Airport Director announcement on Twitter: “We will always be grateful for the investment JetBlue made in our community and the tremendous service they offered our passengers." and "We understand that the aviation industry – now more than ever – is constantly changing and airlines nationwide are making difficult business decisions to stay competitive in light of the pandemic. We expect strong interest in the slots as they become available.”

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