JetBlue Trims Long Beach After International Service Nixed

(Bloomberg) -- JetBlue Airways Corp. will reduce flights out of Long Beach by more than a third, after the California city blocked the carrier’s plans to add international flights, leaving a hole in its network from southern California.

Daily departures from Long Beach will drop to 23 from 35 starting Sept. 5, JetBlue said in a statement Wednesday. The move is among wider changes that include more cross-country service and the return of JetBlue flights to Ontario, California, a decade after leaving that airport.

The cuts end JetBlue’s long-held plan to establish Long Beach as a base for flights to Los Cabos, Mexico, and other beach destinations south of the U.S. border. JetBlue doesn’t make international flights from Los Angeles or Burbank, California, and currently has no plans for such service at Ontario, a spokesman said.

The Long Beach City Council voted in January 2017 against construction of a U.S. Customs facility, effectively killing international service at the airport, which sits about 22 miles southeast of Los Angeles International.

“We thought we had an agreement very early on,” said Marty St. George, JetBlue’s executive vice president for commercial and planning. “They changed their mind. We have to move on.”

Cross-Country Flights

Aircraft will be shifted away from Long Beach in part to support more transcontinental service, which JetBlue considers one of its strengths. New routes will include a daily flight between Ontario, California, and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, and service between Burbank, and Boston. It will add second daily Boston-Kennedy, Burbank-Kennedy and Salt Lake City-Kennedy flights.

The number of Long Beach flights will return to 2016 levels after the reductions in service to seven cities. There are no plans to trim flights further, St. George said. Long Beach will remain one of the carrier’s “focus” cities.

JetBlue will add a second Long Beach-Boston flight during the day, as opposed to the existing overnight “red eye.” It also will start seasonal service to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and Bozeman, Montana, cities that are new to JetBlue’s route map. The Colorado flights will be from Boston, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Long Beach. The seasonal Bozeman flight will be from Long Beach.

New Markets

Long Beach officials said Wednesday the airport has received interest from Delta Air Lines Inc., Southwest Airlines Co. and Hawaiian Holdings Inc. to use the slots JetBlue is quitting.

“We see this as an opportunity to create a better balance among the air carriers serving Long Beach Airport,” Jess Romo, director of the hub, said in a statement. The changes will not only maintain existing service at the airport, he said, but “will likely lead to new markets in the very near future.”

JetBlue previously wrangled with Long Beach officials over plans to build a new $45 million passenger terminal, which opened in late 2012 after several years of contentious talks. The airline has also fought with the city over fines for flights that violate a local 10 p.m. noise curfew.

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