JetBlue’s Long Beach network still a question after California route cull

Feb 6, 2020

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JetBlue Airways will continue to serve Long Beach for the foreseeable future, even following the cut of a third of its flights at the airport this spring.

The New York-based carrier is keeping markets from Long Beach that “do well” — or turn a profit — as it cuts some notable intra-California markets, including Oakland (OAK), Sacramento (SMF) and San Jose (SJC), said JetBlue manager of network planning Nick Han at the Routes Americas forum in Indianapolis on Thursday. Remaining routes include those to its Boston (BOS) and New York John F. Kennedy (JFK) bases, as well as western points like Reno (RNO) and Seattle (SEA).

“There are some routes from Long Beach that do well, and are profitable for us,” he said. “It doesn’t make too much sense to exit out completely.”

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This decision, particularly to keep Long Beach routes to non-bases at a time when JetBlue is nearly single-mindedly focused on expanding its focus cities, raises questions. Brett Snyder, a former airline employee who runs the Cranky Concierge travel service, called it “dying by a thousand cuts” on the Cranky Flier blog in January.

“If [JetBlue] had walked away, I’d understand,” he wrote. “Or if it had just cut down to serve its other focus cities, that would make sense too. But this weird, little semi-focus city is nuts.”

The decision to keep some point-to-point flying at the Southern California airport was driven by revenue, Han indicated. Though he cautioned that, while Long Beach — JetBlue’s first base outside of New York — will remain on the airline’s map, more cuts could be coming.

“We do want to keep a presence there, we’re just trying to figure out what that is,” he said. “We could exit more, but I don’t think we’ll ever exit Long Beach completely.”

Related: JetBlue drops Oakland, shrinks Long Beach amid broader route shakeup

JetBlue is growing in its East Coast focus cities this year. With aircraft limited — deliveries of its new Airbus A321neos are delayed — capacity additions are focused at Boston, Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and JFK, especially where the airline faces increased competition.

For example, JetBlue will add more flights between Boston and New York to bolster its presence in the shuttle market this year. It made a similar move between Boston and Washington Reagan National (DCA) last year.

One change coming in Fort Lauderdale is a new schedule that will make it easier for U.S. travelers to access JetBlue’s expansive Caribbean and Latin America network. The airline plans to restructure its flights in “banks” — a period of time when a number of arriving and departing flights are scheduled to connect — to facilitate connections over the airport, said Han.

The schedule changes needed to facilitate these connections in Fort Lauderdale would be a break from JetBlue’s history of being what those in the industry call a “point-to-point” carrier. A point-to-point airline is that primarily flies passengers nonstop between two cities and not onward to a third city.

Related: Can Delta and JetBlue Make Boston the Next Dual-Hub City?

A JetBlue connecting hub in Fort Lauderdale would increase competition for American Airlines’ Miami (MIA) hub down the road. While the two operations already compete with each other, American relies more on connections than JetBlue does. In addition, Delta Air Lines will add four new routes to Miami to feed passengers to its new partner LATAM Airlines this spring.

Southwest Airlines and Spirit Airlines also connect passengers between U.S. routes and the Caribbean and Latin America over Fort Lauderdale.

Featured image by Alberto Riva / The Points Guy.

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