JetBlue opens new Los Angeles base, plans 21 routes by December

Oct 7, 2020

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JetBlue Airways has made the first fundamental change to airline maps since the coronavirus pandemic hit: it opened a new base in Los Angeles after saying goodbye to its long time digs in Long Beach.

The New York-based carrier inaugurated its LAX base with new nonstop flights to seven cities — Austin (AUS), Bozeman (BZN), Las Vegas (LAS), Reno (RNO), Salt Lake City (SLC), San Francisco (SFO) and Seattle (SEA) — on Wednesday. The first new departure is scheduled as flight B6 2532 from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City at 2:19 p.m. local time, according to Cirium schedules.

The base and first bevy of new routes replace JetBlue’s long-standing base at nearby Long Beach (LGB) airport. The airline closed up shop at the airport after 19 years on Tuesday. JetBlue began flights to Long Beach from New York John F. Kennedy in August 2001.

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The new base is the first in what many experts think will be a number of changes to airline route maps as a result of the pandemic. As one of the most competitive airports in the country, LAX may see more moves as Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines all weigh the fates of their own hubs there.

The map changes come as U.S. air travel remains down 65% during the week ending Sept. 27 compared to last year, data from trade group Airlines for America (A4A) shows.

That’s not stopping JetBlue in Southern California. Scott Laurence, head of revenue and planning at the airline, has cited the fact that LAX handles two-thirds of the region’s air travelers as among the reasons for its move a few miles up the 405 freeway.

Related: JetBlue to open LAX base, end flights to Long Beach in West Coast realignment

JetBlue routes from its new LAX base. (Image courtesy of JetBlue)
JetBlue routes from its new LAX base. (Image courtesy of JetBlue)


“For us, LAX is the new world and we’re burning our ships,” Laurence told TPG in an interview on Sept. 30. The airline will add another eight new nonstop routes by year-end. Laurence described the additions as a demonstration to airport operator Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) of JetBlue’s commitment to the base it wants to grow to 70 daily flights in five years.

While flights to and from LAX are not restricted like at JetBlue’s New York JFK base, the airport is notably gate-tight. In other words, airlines are unable to grow because they do not have the gate and terminal space for additional flights.

JetBlue will open its new focus city with three-and-a-half gates in Terminal 5 at LAX, one more than before the pandemic. It hopes to add more gates to its facilities there in the future, Laurence told CrankyFlier in July.

The airline has served LAX since 2009 and operated up to 20 daily departures from the airport prior to COVID-19.

Related: Airlines are flying some unexpected routes during the pandemic. Will they stick around?

Laurence told TPG that early flight bookings for its new LAX flights “look great.” This comes during COVID-19 and in the face of new competition; both Alaska and Delta have already added flights in some of JetBlue’s new markets.

At the same time, JetBlue has suspended flights to the Southern California airports of Burbank (BUR) and Ontario (ONT) until at least next April.

JetBlue is due to add flights between LAX and Cancun (CUN) and West Palm Beach (PBI) on Nov. 19. Then on Dec. 18, the airline will begin flights to Charleston, South Carolina (CHS), Hartford (BDL), Liberia (LIR) and San José (SJO) in Costa Rica, Raleigh-Durham (RDU) and Richmond (RIC).

The carrier will fly the new LAX-West Palm Beach and Liberia flights with its posh Mint premium service on Airbus A321 jets.

Related: JetBlue service to Baltimore, some California airports now suspended until April

Featured image by AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images.




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