JetBlue Airways may want to add flights in Long Beach. But is it possible?

JetBlue wants to add more flights at Long Beach Airport - but it won't be easy. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova/Staff Photographer.

JetBlue wants to add more flights at Long Beach Airport – but it won’t be easy. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova/Staff Photographer.

Last week, I wrote about how JetBlue wants a U.S. Customs facility at Long Beach Airport so it can add international flights there.

But that’s not the only thing on JetBlue’s Long Beach wish list. The airline also continues to want the rights to add more daily flights out of LGB, one of a handful of airports nationwide with daily departure caps. Long Beach allows 41 daily departures for planes heavier than 75,000 pounds, and JetBlue owns the rights to 32 of those flights.

The basic idea is this: If JetBlue someday gains the ability to fly to Central and South America from Long Beach, it would still want to fly to many of the markets it serves today – like Seattle, Portland, Austin, San Francisco and Salt Lake City. In the right scenario, passengers originating from many of those cities would switch planes in Long Beach and connect to an international flight.

But it’s very hard – perhaps impossible – to run a vibrant domestic and international operation with 32 flights a day. So JetBlue may ask city officials, who tend to be sensitive about new flights due to noise issues, for the right to operate more flights. The airline has made some past overtures, but apparently has never made a formal request – at least one that has been made public. 

Here’s what could happen. By city rules, Long Beach allows an additional flights 25 daily flights on commuter jets – defined as planes weighing less than 75,000 pounds, such as the CRJ-700 and CRJ-200. JetBlue doesn’t have any planes that light, but it does fly the Embraer ERJ-190, with a maximum takeoff weight of 105,359 pounds, according to the manufacturer.  JetBlue would like its E-190s to count in the small jet category, so it can add flights from LGB. (Other airlines are operating far fewer than 25 small jet flights from the airport, so there is available space in the category.)

“The E-190s are a very friendly airplanes,” said Scott Laurence, JetBlue’s vice president for network planning. “They’re quiet. It is very much fits what was intended with those commuter slots.”

Most analysts tell me Laurence is right. The E-190 is quiet, certainly no louder than the small planes in the commuter jet category. But this noise stuff is delicate, and it’s not clear whether the Long Beach City Council would be willing to accommodate JetBlue.

I asked Long Beach Councilwoman – and mayoral candidate – Gerrie Schipske for her take on JetBlue’s proposal. She said she wants to do what she can to accommodate the airport’s largest tenant but also noted that the noise ordinance is a touchy issue around Long Beach.

“I think the city needs to do whatever it can do within the scope of the noise ordinance to facilitate JetBlue or any carrier that approaches us and says, ‘We need to bring more business to (Long Beach),”‘ she said. “We need to figure out how to work it out.”<

Want to know even more about JetBlue operations in Long Beach? Be sure to read Long Beach aviation analyst Brett Snyder’s take on the topic. When it comes to airline economics, he knows his stuff.

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