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Southwest Airlines wins JetBlue's abandoned slots in Long Beach

Sept. 03, 2020
4 min read
Southwest Airlines wins JetBlue's abandoned slots in Long Beach
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Southwest Airlines is well on its way to dominating another Southern California airport once JetBlue Airways says goodbye to its long-time base in Long Beach.

The City of Long Beach has awarded the Dallas-based carrier all of JetBlue's 17 slots at the airport, according to a Sept. 2 statement. The allocation will give Southwest 34 slots at Long Beach (LGB), which is limited to just 53 daily commercial flights.

The added flights come as Southwest continues to fly far less than it did last year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Executives have warned that, barring a sudden massive return to the skies by travelers, the carrier could be at least a quarter smaller at the end of December compared to 2019 with a slow, choppy recovery ahead.

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Air travel remains down around 70% compared to last year, according to data from trade group Airlines for America (A4A). The organization does not expect U.S. airlines to recovery to 2019 flyer numbers until at least 2024.

The COVID-19 downturn prompted JetBlue's decision to pull up stake in Long Beach and move its West Coast base to nearby Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The New York-based carrier will end its 17 daily Long Beach flights on Oct. 6, and add nonstop service to seven western cities from LAX the next day.

JetBlue head of revenue and planning Scott Laurence has described the move to one of its "most successful" markets as an example of seizing opportunities created by the pandemic. In the case of LAX, this means picking up a vacant gate at the notoriously gate-tight airport.

Related: JetBlue ends flights to Long Beach in West Coast realignment

Southwest's slot haul in Long Beach will catapult it to the number one position at the airport. It already holds the top spot for passengers at four other Southern California airports: Burbank (BUR), Ontario (ONT), Orange County (SNA) and San Diego (SAN).

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The airline serves Denver (DEN), Las Vegas (LAS), Oakland (OAK), Phoenix (PHX) and Sacramento (SMF) from Long Beach currently, according to Cirium schedules. Austin (AUS) and San Jose, California (SJC) flights are due to begin in November.

Southwest could boost flight frequencies to these cities with the added slots. However, the Long Beach airport suggests that the airline may "increase its current offering of nonstop destinations."

Related: Southwest Airlines says travel picked up in August, but still expects a tough fall

“Southwest has established decades of consistency as the hometown carrier of California and soon will proudly offer more for Long Beach,” Andrew Watterson, chief commercial officer of Southwest, said in a statement. He did not provide any additional details on the carrier's plans at the airport.

Despite being smaller this winter than last, Southwest continues to add a smattering of new routes across its map. It will connect Charlotte (CLT) and Denver in December, and Norfolk (ORF) and San Diego in January. Also in December, Southwest will open its first-ever seasonal destination Steamboat Springs, Colorado (HDN) with flights to Dallas Love Field (DAL) and Denver.

American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Hawaiian Airlines will also serve Long Beach following JetBlue's exit. Delta and Hawaiian were offered some of JetBlue's former slots but they declined saying the "timing was not ideal," according to the city.

American flies to Phoenix, Delta to Salt Lake City (SLC) and Hawaiian to Honolulu (HNL) from Long Beach, Cirium shows.

Related: Southwest unveils Steamboat Springs routes, adds new destination during pandemic

Featured image by AFP via Getty Images

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

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  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023