JetBlue to open LAX base, end flights to Long Beach in West Coast realignment
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JetBlue Airways is giving up on its long-standing West Coast base in Long Beach with plans to drop the airport from its map and open a new base in nearby Los Angeles this fall.
The New York-based carrier will offer up to 32 daily flights from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) with new service to seven western markets beginning Oct. 7, JetBlue said on Thursday. The new routes include flights to Austin (AUS), Las Vegas (LAS) and San Francisco (SFO).
“As we step into October… we’ve got to be really flexible as no one knows what this pandemic is going to bring,” JetBlue president Joanna Geraghty told TPG’s Brian Kelly on July 2. While she did not mention it directly, the airline has indicated that will shrink as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The exit from Long Beach and build up at LAX seems an example of this, if one that many expected. In fact, if was anticipated even prior to the crisis with Cranky Flier writer Brett Snyder asking “Why bother keeping it as anything more than a spoke?” following the cuts JetBlue announced in January.
Since January, the coronavirus crisis has hit the industry hard with JetBlue slashing schedules by as much as 88% in May, according to Cirium schedules. While some flights have come back, the carrier still only to plans to fly about half of what it flew last year in July. Long Beach operations are down 85% year-over-year this month.
“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,” JetBlue head of revenue and planning Scott Laurence said. “We continue to seize on opportunities to emerge from this pandemic a stronger competitive force in the industry.”
He called LAX one of the carrier’s “most successful” markets since it began flights to the airport in 2009. In addition to the new base, JetBlue is adding flights with its Mint premium product between the airport and Newark Liberty (EWR) on July 23.
JetBlue hopes to grow its new LAX base to as many as 70 daily departures by 2025. It will relocate its Long Beach crew and maintenance bases to the airport as part of the move.
The airline does not indicate how it plans to add terminal space at LAX — a notoriously gate-tight airport prior to the pandemic — for its expanded operations. JetBlue operates from Terminal 5 today.
“This is stupid,” Snyder told TPG on Thursday. “It’s smart that they’re finally leaving Long Beach. However, instead they’ve decided to go into one of the most competitive airports in the world on routes where they’ll really add little value and I don’t see how this works.”
For example, JetBlue will join seven other carriers — including West Coast leaders Alaska Airlines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines — on the LAX-Las Vegas route based on March schedules, Cirium shows.
The LAX base appears the latest in JetBlue’s ambition to establish itself as a major player on the West Coast. Its last major attempt was a failed bidding war for Virgin America that it lost to Alaska in 2016.
In addition to LAX, JetBlue plans to continue serving Burbank (BUR) and Ontario (ONT) airports in the Los Angeles area.
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At this time, Long Beach continues to be served by American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines and Southwest. However, Delta and Hawaiian have both suspended flights through August.
Below are JetBlue’s planned routes from LAX from Oct. 7.
- Boston Logan (BOS)
- Bozeman (BZN)
- Buffalo (BUF)
- Fort Lauderdale (FLL)
- Las Vegas
- New York John F. Kennedy (JFK)
- Newark Liberty (begins July 23)
- Orlando (MCO)
- Reno (RNO)
- Salt Lake City (SLC)
- San Francisco
- Seattle-Tacoma (SEA)
Featured image by Shutterstock.com.
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