Long time readers of the blog know that I’ve been waiting to write this post for nearly four years. In less than a week, on December 12, the brand new Long Beach Airport concourse will finally open. I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek of what is truly a great facility. If you live in the area, you can get your own sneak peek at the community open house all day Sunday, December 9. [UPDATE: If you want to go to the open house, you have to RSVP. Call 562-570-2678 to do so.]
It was back in March of 2009 that I did an interview with JetBlue CEO Dave Barger where he ruffled some feathers here in Long Beach. The wide-ranging interview began with a message for the city and the airport.
Municipalities must make good on their commitments. That includes parking, terminals, baggage claim and every other part of the experience. The message I would give is that especially in a recession, you shouldn’t take air service for granted.
Specifically, he was talking about the new concourse that was promised to replace the trailers back at the beginning of the decade but never materialized. The Long Beach and LA news exploded with word that JetBlue might leave, and the city council started pointing fingers with me inexplicably caught in the middle.
Around the same time, Mario Rodriguez took over as airport director and with the city willpower in the right place (finally), he got things moving. The new parking garage went up first, but then the concourse broke ground. After many, many years, it finally opens next week. I was able to go for a sneak peek and I put together this 4m46s video of the walkthrough.
It’s a fantastic facility and with a mere $45 million budgeted price tag (it will likely come in about a million dollars under that), it won’t raise operating costs for the airlines. This should be a model for airports around the country on how to create something great without breaking the bank.
Of course, there is always more to worry about. JetBlue cut back its off-peak flights significantly this winter, so clearly all is not perfect. But the airline is thrilled to have the new facility up and running. (I tried to do a follow-up interview with Dave Barger, but I was told that he won’t have time in the near future.)
In the meantime, let’s enjoy the death of the trailer park. If you live in the area, there will be a community open house where people can walk freely through the new concourse this Sunday, December 9 from 10 to 4 without getting a TSA groping. [UPDATE: If you want to go to the open house, you have to RSVP. Call 562-570-2678 to do so.] I’ll be volunteering at the event to help answer questions, so please come on by and look for me in a green volunteer vest.