JetBlue Expanding in Southern California, Coming to LAX

As I briefly mentioned in yesterday’s post, JetBlue has decided to expand their presence in Southern California mostly starting May 21. This is welcome considering that after the initial burst of service at Long Beach and a minor move at Burbank, there really hasn’t been much action from them out this way.

08_02_13 laxredcarpetApparently JetBlue thinks this is a huge deal, because they had a lot of pomp and circumstance around the announcement. Their CEO flew in along with an army of crewmembers from Long Beach for the announcement. And LA Mayor Villaraigosa along with Councilman Bill Rosendahl (LAX falls in his district), literally rolled out the red carpet for them, as you can see at left. Fortunately, I had the chance to attend the press conference at LAX, but no, I didn’t get to hitch a ride on the flight from Long Beach.

On the surface, this looks like a big expansion, but what most media outlets aren’t reporting is that much of it is really just a reallocation of resources. Take a look at this table that summarizes the changes. The numbers are the changes in frequency. Anything in italics is a new route.

Los Angeles/LAX Long Beach Burbank San Diego Net Change

New York/JFK +3 -2 -1 0

Boston +1 -1 0

Washington/Dulles -2 +2 0

Seattle +2 +1 +3

San Jose +3 +3

Austin +1 +1

Las Vegas -1 +1 0

Salt Lake City +1 +1

Net Change +4 0 +2 +2 +8

Table Edited 2/13 @ 105p to reflect changes confirmed by JetBlue PR that conflict with information received at the press conference. There will now be only one Dulles flight cut from Long Beach. Instead of cutting the second one, they will cut one of the two O’Hare flights instead. The remaining flight will become a smaller Embraer 190. It is undecided what they will do with the now-unused O’Hare slot.

Table Reverted 2/13 @ 309p because it was apparently correct in the first place. O’Hare will not be changing. Hopefully the PR story won’t change again, but watch this space.

So, you see LAX gets flights to JFK and Boston, but those are taken away from other airports. That’s probably important at JFK where there isn’t much room to expand these days, but it’s most important at Long Beach. Remember, the airport is maxed out and JetBlue can’t start any new flights unless they get rid of some other ones. Before we get into that, let’s talk about LAX.

08_02_13 b6vxlax

Like I said, the airport will get flights to JFK and Boston. They can’t have many more than that, because they only have one gate in terminal 6. That’s gate 69, to be precise. Hmm, they should try a Southwest-style “love” message with that gate number.

Anyway, this is nothing but bad news for Virgin America since they’re targeting the same travelers and offering similar amenities. Virgin America may have one more flight per day, but JetBlue has better times, most significantly on the westbound. Virgin has no flight leaving JFK between 930a and 510p. JetBlue has a midday trip at 11a.

Down in Long Beach, most of the changes they’re making appear to be so they can introduce the smaller Embraer 190 into the market. Austin starts (the only one to begin May 1) probably because it’s the best way to get the plane from the east coast to the west coast, but San Jose and Seattle are interesting moves. Seattle is in direct competition with Alaska. They must think there’s enough room for two players in this market, because they’re going to be at a frequency and loyalty disadvantage. The odds aren’t stacked against them nearly as much as they are for Virgin America going against Alaska at LAX, however. They’re also doing Seattle to San Diego.08_02_13 b6lovlax Meanwhile, Burbank gets a couple Dulles flights, which is a nice addition.

I thought it was funny that at the press conference, the theme was all about the regionalization of airports in LAX, but that’s far from the case here. Sure, they added a couple flights at Burbank, but the restrictions on flying at Long Beach means they didn’t add anything, they just moved the flights around. It’s kind of hard to regionalize when the desirable regional airports don’t have any room.

Really, the big announcement is that they added LAX flying which goes against LA’s effort to move away from LAX. I thought it was pretty funny to see JetBlue CEO Dave Barger pressured to start more Ontario and even Palmdale flying. He laughed uncomfortably, but until Ontario lowers its fees, I can’t imagine they’re going to see much more traffic. And Palmdale? That’s way too far out there today.

So, good news for LA travelers in that you can now fly JetBlue out of LAX. It’s nice for LGB travelers to have more destinations, even if it is at the expense of some east coast flights. There are still plenty of options in those markets. I’m just happy to see JetBlue finally taking their eyes away from Northeast to Florida flying and giving us some love out here on the West Coast.

Click to see all my photos from JetBlue’s press conference.

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