Bustling LGB Takes Off

Business is booming at Long Beach Airport. With passenger traffic up 118% in June compared with the same month last year, it seems everybody wants to fly to the close-in pocketport considered by those who know and love it to be the anti-LAX.

By: Jerry Chandler

Business is booming at Long Beach Airport. With passenger traffic up 118% in June compared with the same month last year, it seems everybody wants to fly to the close-in pocketport considered by those who know and love it to be the anti-LAX.

In terms of convenience for a significant percentage of the Los Angeles Basin, LGB beats LAX hands-down; travel agents, passengers and the airlines love it. The problem is, they love it too much for the people who live around it.

As agents know, the inhabitants of Long Beach don’t like aircraft noise. In fact, they abhor it so much that a city ordinance effectively limits the number of daily full-size jet flights to 41.

“Our community has made it clear that we have to have a balanced airport,” said LGB spokeswoman Sharon Diggs-Jackson.

All 41 of those takeoff and landing slots are allocated, dispersed among JetBlue, American and America West. JetBlue is the biggest player, with nonstop service to New York JFK and Washington Dulles. America West flies to Phoenix, and American offers nonstop flights to Dallas/Fort Worth, JFK and Chicago O’Hare.

But the permanence of those last two routes is questionable. That’s because Long Beach granted AA the slots on a temporary basis only. American must relinquish them on Jan. 6, 2003, unless the carrier is able to convince the city it can operate them and still keep cumulative noise at the airport under a preset limit.

“American has contended that, with modern technology and newer planes, there may be a possibility for some additional flights and still allow us to stay under our noise [cap],” Diggs-Jackson said. “That’s still to be determined.”

On the Horizon

Alaska Airlines has already figured that it doesn’t pay to fight the system and yanked its request for temporary, full-size slots, opting instead to field 70-passenger Canadair Regional Jets between LGB and Seattle/ Tacoma via its subsidiary, Horizon Air. If the city gives the go-ahead, three-times-daily service will start Oct. 6. Alaska/Horizon wants to fly around the 41 full-size slot limit by taking over some of the 25 commuter slots that Long Beach has made available.

“Providing service to Long Beach is vital to our long-term strategy for continued growth in [Southern California],” said Gregg Saretsky, Alaska Airlines’ vice president of marketing and planning.

With 27 of the 41 permanent slots sewn up, JetBlue is planning a slew of new service out of its West Coast minihub. Nonstop LGB-Oakland service is set to begin Sept. 6, with nonstops to Las Vegas and Salt Lake City scheduled for Oct. 10.

JetBlue officials are beaming about the Long Beach flights. Diggs-Jackson said the low-fare carrier is filling 92% of the seats from LGB.

As for AA, Diggs-Jackson said, “We’re told, out of Long Beach, that they’re above their nationwide average.”

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