JetBlue’s Long Haul Flights Slowly Disappearing From Long Beach

JetBlue, LGB - Long Beach

When I saw JetBlue announce it was moving its flight to Ft Lauderdale from Long Beach to LAX, I wasn’t surprised. It was just one more step in the effort to move long hauls away from Long Beach and into LAX. Looking back at JetBlue’s nearly 10 years in Long Beach, you can see how stark the change has been. Long Beach serves a very different role now than it did originally for the airline.

Evoluation of JetBlue Flight Distances at Long Beach Airport

JetBlue doesn’t do much flying in the middle of the country, so it’s no surprise to see very little of that type of flying happening in Long Beach. But it is surprising to see how few long hauls are left at the airport.

From Long Beach, JetBlue originally started with flights to New York in September 2001 and followed with Washington soon after. One year after starting at Long Beach, the first short haul began up to Oakland. But long hauls still remained the focus and didn’t start to really go away until early 2008.

Since that time, the drop in long haul flying has been dramatic. Here’s another way to look at it. Look at the number of daily departures from Long Beach to New York.

Daily JetBlue Departures from Long Beach to New York/JFK

At one time, JetBlue flew eight daily flights between the two cities. That’s just unreal. It’s now down to just two daily, and at times even that second daily flight doesn’t run every day. Meanwhile, in June 2009, JetBlue started flying to LAX. Today, there are three flights most days from LAX to JFK and that number will rise to five daily this summer.

So what’s the story? When JetBlue started at Long Beach, people were willing to drive for the low fares, live television, and great service. But that’s because low fare, long haul trips were few and far between at LAX. JetBlue chose Long Beach for its lower costs and lack of competition. Today, things are very different.

Low fare service has gone into primary airports across the board. In the LA-New York market, Song showed up in 2005 before being merged back in to Delta. Now, Virgin America is the prime provider of low cost service to New York along with JetBlue (and a bunch of connecting options). The point is, people who prefer LAX do not have to drive to an alternate airport to get low fares anymore. So that changes the math at Long Beach.

JetBlue realized that with people not having to drive to Long Beach to get low fares, long haul flights wouldn’t be as lucrative down there. Besides, people coming from far away didn’t even know Long Beach and had a strong preference for LAX anyway. It moved into LAX in order to keep the traffic that used to be willing to go to Long Beach. But short haul is different.

Those who are traveling on shorter flights are less willing to drive to airports that are further away. So people that live in the heavily-populated area around Long Beach will drive to LAX if they’re going to New York, but they’re less likely to do it if it’s just a jaunt to Vegas or San Francisco. So JetBlue has repositioned Long Beach as a short haul-focused operation serving that community. Low fares are good, but it’s the convenience of the airport that makes it work best.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that Long Beach couldn’t support any long haul flights, but JetBlue has to make a choice. Since Long Beach is heavily slot-restricted, JetBlue has to use its 30 daily flights in the best way possible. Considering the current dynamics in the industry, it decided that short haul is the way to go, so long haul will continue to migrate up the road to LAX.

Moving this Ft Lauderdale flight allows JetBlue to add yet another flight to Vegas. Apparently, JetBlue sees enough business traffic potential in this market that it is creating a business-type schedule instead of the afternoon-only leisure schedule that used to be in the market.

Yes, this is partially a response to Allegiant (JetBlue’s network planning chief tells me that the airline “competes hard”) but it’s also an effort to optimize its slots. And these days, short haul flying is far more optimal for secondary airports.

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19 comments on “JetBlue’s Long Haul Flights Slowly Disappearing From Long Beach

  1. They wouldn’t be doing this if it didn’t mean more money for them, but with only 30 slots they can only do so much.

    Kind of interesting is people used to bypass OAK and SJC to use SFO or bypass BUR/ONT/LGB to use LAX because they had a better chance of flying in a 747/D10/L11 even to midwest non-hub cities. Now with so many transcon flights and just about every midwest point using narrow body airplanes they may still bypass closer airports to have flexibility of flights at LAX/SFO even if its narrowbody aircraft. They can justify the time spend to travel to the farther larger airport for a longer flight then for a closer flight like you mentioned.

  2. Thanks for the note about the FLL flight — I was wondering what happened to it. I’m supposed to fly to southern Florida in May and was planning on taking the redeye from Long Beach, but about a week ago the flight disappeared from JetBlue’s web site though it was still showing up on OAG. Now this explains it. That’s too bad — the Long Beach flight would have allowed me to have a nice dinner at home before leaving. The new schedule from LAX is now sandwiched between Virgin (earlier departure = go straight from work) and Delta (later departure = dinner at home). So sorry.

  3. I wonder about LGB’s longterm plans since B6′ fares out of the airport are terrible. Just about any carrier has a 30% premium out of LAX, and it doesn’t seem like LGB is going to offer B6 any advantage; it’s turning into the ISP of the LA area.

  4. Agreed. This is where the geographical advantages of middle America hubs becomes clear. There is no slot issues at most airports (save maybe Chicagoland) and so 4-5 slots is enough to feed the banks from the West Coast. Costs are also fairly manageable.

    Frontier does this extremely well from LGB through DEN, and consistently has connections in DEN that are less than 60 min. Southwest has not typically done hub banks but has enough frequency to basically do it. Delta has improved the Northwest DTW operation such that flights from the Eastern Seaboard come in around 7 and connections to the west galore around 45 min later. Same thing in reverse where flights come in around 9 and late night eastern flights leave 45 min later. Even CVG still has some decent banks (although mostly RJ’s)

    I’m a big believer in midwest hubs and I wish JetBlue could at least do some flying in the midwest. I understand the argument about O&D but I think this has restricted growth at JetBlue.

    1. I completely agree with the advantages of middle America hubs. Unless you happen to live in large cities on either coast (LA, Boston, NY, SF etc), transferring somewhere ‘in the middle’ is far faster than flying to a coastal hub.
      (Fairly off topic, but I’ve wondered why DL doesn’t promote MSP more as a hub like DTW. It avoids the crowded airspace between NY and Chicago completely, and from my experience and observations, there are fewer delays and problems in MSP.)
      JetBlue has got the point-to-point flying down, but when it tries to create hubs, it will run into problems (delays at JFK anyone?)

      1. Maybe they don’t openly promote it, but MSP is a big deal for Delta. It’s their 3rd largest hub with more than 500 flights every day (regional & mainline). When I used to live out west, I loved Northwest, because it was such an easy place to make connections without the hassles of ORD.

  5. “And these days, short haul flying is far more optimal for secondary airports.”

    For JetBlue in LGB yes, however, I would not say that is true many other places. If Jetblue wants to serve short haul markets from the LA basin, they should stay put and try to get some of the local LGB crowd to fly them out of LGB. I can’t imagine their performance would improve in LAX being head to head against multiple carriers with pax loyalty and frequency. That is what I would call sub-optimal. If this does not work in LGB, I doubt they would try to move it all to LAX. Intra West traffic has not and probably will not be their focus anytime soon, I think they are just trying to do the best with the situation they are currently in. Any significant LGB pull down would have big implications (crew base, politics, perception). It will be interesting to see what they decide to do.

    Don’t forget the initial high freq LAS and OAK flights were just slot placeholders to get utilization fast because AA and AS where throwing a fit at the slot deal JetBlue got.

    1. I was just looking at some fares in the area, and SLC is pretty representative of the situation. ONTSLC has about a 50% premium to LGBSLC. Ontario (!!!) finally can look down on another airport’s fares. LGB made sense for B6 when its unit costs were incredibly low and few LCCs were at LAX flying transcons. Now, however, I’m not sure what B6 can make of it.

      1. Of course Ontario-Salt Lake has a premium – it’s not served by low cost carriers so Delta controls the pricing. (And no, I don’t count a connection on Southwest.)

        1. Right, but it’s representative of just about any other B6 market. ONTLAS is 30-40% higher than LGB, Bay Area 50% higher, SEA/PDX 20-30% higher, SMF 30-40% higher, etc.

  6. How about people coming from the south? John Wayne already serves most of the short-haul destinations. The value of Long Beach was that it has non-stop flights to places SNA doesn’t. If it switches to short-haul destinations, it will have to compete against SNA head-on.

    Cranky, do you think this is a direct response to Virgin America? I believe JetBlue started LAX-JFK and LAX-BOS service shortly after Virgin America did so. Maybe they are trying to drive VX out of LAX?

    1. I wondered about that. My guess is that it’s a part of it. I would assume that Virgin America’s service has pulled people away from JetBlue’s LGB service and that probably has made the JetBlue flight less viable. So an extra Vegas flight looks better compared to a weaker FLL flight from LGB.

    2. Even if LGB ends up with more short hauls from JBA that might compete against SNA, I will still use LGB over SNA, and I live in Orange County. LGB is much more friendly and hastle free. I am a business flyer who flies often to the east coast, so I hope JBA leaves these flights as they are and JBA realizes we use LGB because we hate the hastle and hellish traffic that is LAX.

  7. Maybe the move has also something to do with Lufthansa. Since LH owns part of JetBlue it might be that they need them to be at LAX to make connections easier between both airlines. This is especially relevant for passengers that come from Europe and land arrive in FL and depart from CA. That way LH can issue a ticket on LH routing only and has it as a code shared flight.

    1. I would be surprised if that had anything to do with it. There wouldn’t need to be any connections between the airlines because nobody would go from Florida back to LA and then over to Europe. Besides, if connectivity with Lufthansa really mattered, they would have moved the flight from Ft Lauderdale to Miami, where Lufthansa flies.

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