JetBlue Airways plans to exit its longtime southern California base in Long Beach and move most of the flights to Los Angeles International Airport in a bid to woo more travelers.
The New York-based carrier, known for its free in-flight TV and Wi-Fi and trendy free snacks, said its last flights from Long Beach will be Oct. 6.
The airline has served tiny, throwback Long Beach Airport since 2001, a year after the airline started flying, and at its peak had 35 daily flights. It used to bill it as an alternative to mammoth LAX. The pitch on the airport’s website: “Where the going is easy.”
JetBlue has been shrinking in Long Beach, most recently eliminating in-state flights to Oakland, Sacramento and San Jose, and reducing the number of daily flights to Las Vegas. It has 15 daily departures from Long Beach, spokesman Philip Stewartsaid.
The airline will move all but one of the destinations it serves from Long Beach to LAX, where it already has 20 daily flights to the East Coast. The only service ending, from southern California, at least: Portland, Oregon. JetBlue says it will have 30 daily flights from LAX starting this fall.
JetBlue didn’t say why it’s leaving Long Beach but the airline has repeatedly battled with the community over expansion plans and the airport’s flight restrictions have limited its growth.
Snyder said Long Beach, which is about 20 miles south of Los Angeles, “is just kind of in the middle so it doesn’t pull (passengers) from a lot of places.”
“If JetBlue could have grown … maybe it would have had more gravitational pull,” he said.
In a statement on Twitter late Thursday, Long Beach Airport director Cynthia Guidry said, “We will always be grateful for the investment JetBlue made in our community and the tremendous service they offered our passengers. 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 (takeoff and landing) slots as they become available.”
Snyder was surprised JetBlue is shifting the Long Beach flights to LAX and isn’t a fan because of the intense competition there on the routes it will be adding, such as Los Angeles-Las Vegas.
“Trying to be like the No. 6 or No. 7 airline in an airport that doesn’t need more competition doesn’t really seem like a smart move,” he said.
The airline sees it differently, of course.
“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,” Scott Laurence, JetBlue’s head of revenue and planning said in a statement. “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.”
JetBlue said it hopes to have 70 flights per day from LAX by 2025, including service to multiple new domestic and international markets, including some without current nonstop service to and from LAX. It did not offer specifics.
Beginning Oct. 7, JetBlue will add nonstop flights between LAX and:
Tickets for the new markets will be available for purchase Friday.
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