Long Beach’s Anti-Airport Crowd Chooses Misguided Scare Tactics Against JetBlue Flying Internationally

LGB - Long Beach

It’s been a few years since we’ve had a contentious airport battle here in my hometown of Long Beach, and I’m sure you’ve missed all the combativeness, right? After all, the anti-airport folks had finally jumped on board the plan for the new concourse, and it turned out great. Everyone was happy… with an emphasis on “was.” JetBlue has started talking more about wanting to fly internationally from Long Beach, and it could very well be a great idea. But the anti-airport folks don’t care about what’s good or bad. They just simply oppose anything at the airport short of shutting it down.

JetBlue has been talking for at least a year or so about how it wants to get a customs and immigration facility in Long Beach so it can start flying internationally. This may or may not make sense for the airport depending upon a variety of factors, but it’s a conversation that should unquestionably be had. And it probably will make sense.

As a quick reminder, the airport has a current cap on flights. Aircraft weighing over 75,000 pounds (anything bigger than a CRJ-700) can fly only 41 times a day from the airport. Today, those slots are split between 5 airlines. UPS has 1 as does FedEx. Delta has 2 it uses to Salt Lake and US Airways/American has 5 that go to Phoenix. That leaves 32 to the largest tenant, JetBlue. As airplanes get quieter, a couple more slots are likely to open up under the existing ordinance.

JetBlue Slot Usage Long Beach

As you can see above, JetBlue isn’t flying all those slots it has and it doesn’t have to. The rule says you basically need to fly your slots half the days and you can keep them. So JetBlue really can fly as little as 17 a day and still not have to relinquish anything. That means there are a lot of slots going unused today. That’s bad for airport revenue, and it’s bad for bringing more people into the city.

The fact JetBlue isn’t utilizing all its slots fully is important, because if JetBlue were flying a full load today, then what would be the incentive to allow international flying? JetBlue has said it is not interested in changing the noise ordinance (previous rumblings about trying to use the Embraer 190s in the commuter slots are completely dead, I’m told). That means a customs/immigration facility wouldn’t increase the number of flights allowed so it would mean that the airport would do the work needed with no real return.

However, since JetBlue isn’t flying a full load today, then building a customs and immigration facility could result in better usage. If the airport is putting any money into this thing, then that should be a requirement for doing the work.

On the other hand, JetBlue could just decide that it wants to pay for all or most of the facility. There is precedent for that; it’s already done it at JFK. And a facility in Long Beach would be orders of magnitude simpler and cheaper than what was built in New York. You just build a box next to the main terminal where people can be processed.

The hardest part is getting the feds to staff it. That is a process that would require the city to request that the airport become a port of entry. That’s really the next step that would need to happen if this is going to go forward. So should it?

Sure it would get JetBlue to start flying more in Long Beach and provide more destinations that people want, but it helps more than just JetBlue and its passengers. After all, the general aviation aircraft based at the airport today can’t come back from international trips without stopping somewhere else first. This would change that. That’s a good thing.

As you can see, this could be beneficial for the city under the right terms. So how do you figure out if those terms can be agreed upon? You meet with each other to discuss the possibilities. Seems normal, right? Not if you’re in the anti-airport crowd.

The general strategy used by this group seems to involve scare tactics and slippery slope arguments in order to kill any sort of plan before its viability could even be discussed.

The local website LBReport.com has been making all kinds of wild accusations through this process, calling the talks “secretive” and saying that the whole thing was “concealed” from the public prior to elections this year. Its coverage has outright stated that allowing international flying “could lead to actions seeking to undermine or collapse the Ordinance.” There’s no basis for that, but it will certainly scare the locals who don’t know the truth.

My former city councilmember has been posting comments on every blog and article she can find to try to drag this down into the mud. Look no further than my Cranky on the Web post last week. She fortunately termed out and is no longer on the council but that doesn’t mean people stop listening to her. That’s bad.

The end result is a wealth of misinformation is reaching the public and they are being robbed of their ability to really understand if this would be good or not. Just look at this letters to the editor section in the local newspaper, the Long Beach Press-Telegram, entitled “Should Long Beach Airport offer international flights?

You see people saying that they’re afraid that this would grow the airport and make it seem less friendly. Flying internationally and growing the airport are, in fact, mutually exclusive. And nobody is talking about growing the airport except for the anti-airport crowd.

I’ve seen people suggest that allowing international flights would result in a cavalcade of 747s. That’s clearly not going to happen. There simply isn’t the kind of demand in Long Beach for anything like that, even if slots came available somewhere down the line.

If international flying is allowed, the only difference we’d see in the beginning would be JetBlue’s existing airplanes simply pointing in different directions. You’d see Mexico and Central America flying with maybe a chance of Canada, but that’s it – they don’t have airplanes that can reach any further. There would be no change in the number of flights allowed.

If done properly, this could result in JetBlue fully operating its slots in the existing noise ordinance instead of leaving several unused. It could also result in more destinations that people want. The key here is that is had to be done properly. I’m sure the city council wouldn’t do this if it were a bad deal, but they have to have the talks to figure it out.

So, all you anti-airport people, let the talks happen to see if they can figure out something that works well for both parties. Save your vitriol for something that’s actually a scourge on our city instead. This should be a good thing if done right.

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35 comments on “Long Beach’s Anti-Airport Crowd Chooses Misguided Scare Tactics Against JetBlue Flying Internationally

  1. It should be pointed out, per the terms of the original Noise Ordinance Section 16.43.050, Sub-section E, Paragraph 2:

    In order to achieve applicable noise budgets, users within the Air Carrier category will be
    encouraged to operate at the lowest average noise level consistent with safety. This
    encouragement will be provided by permitting increases in the number of allowed Air Carrier
    Flights if the Air Carrier user group achieves compliance with the CNEL budget established
    pursuant to this Chapter, as determined on an annual basis.

    The number of slots could go above 41 the carriers are under the noise budget. Both the City and the Councilmembers fail to point this out. And with no Super 80’s (generally the noisiest plane) I believe the airlines have been under the ‘noise budget’ for the last few years, but there hasn’t been interest in the slots

    1. TMartin – That’s correct. I noted in the post that ” As airplanes get quieter, a couple more slots are likely to open up under the existing ordinance.” But those slots haven’t been possible until recently. Remember, Allegiant had those MD-80s in until a year or two ago. Now I think it should be possible, but I don’t know why it hasn’t happened.

      I would think that there would be demand. Delta, for example, would probably want another one to upgauge its existing flying. And JetBlue is always happy to hoard slots if it can. But that’s about all I could see, unless Alaska thinks it’d like to take a swing at Hawai’i.

  2. So do the anti-airport people use LGB when they need to go somewhere or do they head to LAX, who’s keeping an eye on their travel?

    The one thing about social media is anyone can start a website and say what they want, and sadly there are to many people who think whatever is written on these sites is true, and scare tactics is as old as politics itself.

    Kind of makes you want to laugh, if talks were “secretive”, they wouldn’t know about them to say that.

    Maybe the anit-airport people should do something wild and crazy like move somewhere else where there is no airport for a hundred miles.

    1. Sadly when presented with fantastic articles and “click bait” headlines the vox populi fails to do any sort of critical thinking or even look at the author or source of an article. So in this case any resident could start a Facebook page against the airport (or business, ordinance, dog park whatever) make up a bunch of false claims and stories. Add in a petition site and a personal anecdote and it will be accepted and shared as fact by hundreds of friends and family.

      To paraphrase this Vice article, “Why would you give garbage that friends post and share on Facebook the same credibility as email chain forwards and urban legends?”

      Even the local news, never a paragon of journalism to begin with, now just rehashes social media stories that are “going viral.”



  3. “We already deal with oil slicks in our dogs’ water bowls outside, this would only get worse.”
    – Susy in Long Beach

    Based on this evidence I would strongly suggest an Environmental Impact Study on Susy’s patio before approving any further expansions plans.

    1. California NIMBYs at their finest. I still don’t understand how one has a noise ordinance based on the WEIGHT of the aircraft as opposed to the actual noise emitted by aircraft. Imagine their horror if they knew that the other half the world operates entire hub waves at 3am.

      1. I’m just ball parking it, but at least at some of those airports properties have been bought up around them and dedicated to non-housing purposes, doesn’t look like that has happened at Long Beach. (Its fun to go play disc golf north of SeaTac and see the remnants of a neighborhood.)

        I have some sympathy toward the guy who has lived in the same house since the 1950s, until I realize that todays planes are much quieter.

        1. I don’t have much sympathy for him since he isn’t complaining about noise, he is complaining about property value. He inherited the house from his parents, and I’m sure it has appreciated in value since 1950. He’s not looking to sell it now, so it seems to be more of an emotional argument than fact.

          And, as continues to be pointed out, there is less noise now than ever. Further, (and I have family under the JFK flight paths) more regular traffic doesn’t make it worse, in some ways it is better because it is a more regular / predictable sound. You get used to it and ignore it.

      2. In fairness, the NIMBY attitudes expressed in this case aren’t exclusive to California. You saw pretty much the same thing during the myriad fights about Love Field or the construction of the light rail system in Dallas. Mix a collection of semi-wealthy to wealthy residents who think noise and traffic need to be restricted to the bad part of town, a handful of neighborhood activists with nothing better to do but spread misinformation, and a city council member/state representative/Congressman that sees an opportunity to pander to vote bank politics, and you get pretty much the same result anywhere.

  4. If JetBoy got the Feds to bite on this, wouldn’t they (the Feds) be more likely to designate LGB as a “landing rights” int’l airport rather than a full-fledged port of entry? So those general aviation aircraft may well have to put down at a POE first (SAN?) on the way back from Mexico if it’s outside of the U.S. Customs staffing hours at LGB. (AFAIK, LAX isn’t even a POE, only a landing rights airport.)

    1. LGB has landing rights already, http://www.airnav.com/airport/KLGB . GA aircraft can overfly the official airports of entry along the border by pre-filing and getting CBP approval. A CBP agent would then meet the aircraft at the FBO and collect paperwork, etc.

      When/If the FIS is built, how it will be funded will be the question. There are two ways: 1) Federal government funds the agents or 2) User-Fee Airport, in which the airport collects a fee on each ticket and remits it to the government for the costs of having agents. User-Fee Airports are typically those without scheduled intl. service; except in at least one case. The one exception I know of is Fresno Yosemite International (FAT) in Fresno, CA. CBP has no appetite to pay for the costs of funding it even though it meets the qualifications. More than likely, LGB will be another User-Fee Airport.

  5. I lived by the Long Beach traffic circle from 1993-99. There were relatively few jet flights back then. I do remember a 747 and a C5 landing at LGB for movie shoots. Other than that, the noise was not horrible.

    The best way to remove ignorance and get people to quiet down is to help satisfy their interests. Hopefully, there will ultimately be talks involving all the groups. But you’re right, you need a plan to disucss first.

    1. Unfortunately, that’s not true. If airplanes made no noise (we’re almost there, have you seen/heard the 787 take off?) these NIMBYs would still be against something flying in the skies, or the traffic. These are the same people the fight WalMart and every other business from operating in Long Beach. They simply see no economic benefit from anything. Why don’t we let Lakewood or Signal Hill annex the airport and let them run it!??

  6. The anti-airport folks argument does make sense, in a mildly perverse, roundabout sort of way. See, they don’t want flights at all. But JetBlue underutilzing their slots is still preferable to them fully utilizing them, since it means fewer flights. So they’re opposed to international flights because it means JetBlue is more likely to fully utilize their slots. But they can’t outright say that they don’t want JetBlue to be able to use something they’re entitled to (well, they could, but it’s more transparently nonsense than the stuff they’re spouting now), so instead they come up with absurd arguments regarding 747s and their cats’ water bowl.

    Nothing is stopping Delta from putting a 747 on LGB-SLC today if they wanted to.

    1. Well, she mentioned her dog’s water bowl. No self respecting cat servant would squak at efforts to reduce the four legged vermin’s reign of Cranky Felining.

      I’ve got two and I’ve got em down to nine lives between the two of them, it was four lives between the two of them last year, but sadly they’ve been stealing extra lives from kittens during the night.

  7. Scare tactics work. We have the TSA, Patriot Act, NSA, etc…

    I wish someone like a WN or VX would challenge 16.43 in Federal Court. LGB could be great if it was capped similarly to SNA. Maybe not that many slots, but 41 is a bit harsh.

    1. Escorted by F/A-18s with a little afterburner! BTW ALL government aircraft are exempt from the noise ordinance.

  8. As a JetBlue pilot I encourage all NIMBYs to step up their protest against more LGB flights. If JetBlue implements international flights I would be forced to work more days a month, and longer hours. Fight on NIMBYs!! :~)

    1. No one would be “forcing” you to do anything. If you don’t like the pay for the amount of work, then quit.

      1. Grover,
        My comment is “tongue in cheek”. I would love nothing more than to have expanded flight/work opportunities from LGB. (smiley means; ‘I’m kidding :~)

  9. I think that LAX should be used for International Flights. I felt the same way about Hobby. Why do we need to have multiple FIS’s within a City. The US Government is just not efficient when it comes to operating facilities. Example being that when one flies to Mexico Tax on that is about 30 bucks, but when one returns its 89 bucks, most being the cost of operating the FIS. I have often wondered why we need to have 1. Agriculture 2. Customs 3. Immigration doing much the same sort of work when it could be leaned out and done by one staff type.

    Bottom line, why bear the expense of a LGB FIS when LAX has one a few miles away.

    1. Deke – Well, if JetBlue wants to absorb the cost to build the facility and CBP is willing to staff it, then why not?

      Your numbers are off on taxation. There is a $5.50 custom user fee and a $7.00 federal inspection fee put on each international ticket.

  10. JetBlue has been cutting long-haul flights from LGB for years and replacing them with mostly in-state short hops. What exactly is the logic of having international flights? SNA can’t seem to make international flights work (they had to subsidize them and Interjet came in and soon quit). This whole thing seems like a matter of city prestige and status, but it really isn’t practical.

    1. Jim – I would agree to question the viability of these international flights (though we don’t know what they’d try). But if JetBlue wants to pay for this or if they are willing to commit to a certain level of service for a period of time, then who cares if anyone else thinks it won’t work? If JetBlue wants to make the commitment, then that should be fine.

  11. I have lived in H.B since 1987. Our neighborhood was real quiet until 2001 when Jet Blue complicated the air space. The FAA changed the flight patterns resulting in Long Beach, Santa Ana, and some LAX intersecting over our neighborhood. Having 30-40 flights daily coming into Long Beach over your house at 1500 feet is beyond disturbing. The airbus sounds like a screaming incoming missle. We keep our dual pane windows closed most of the day and it is still extremely loud. Many of my neighbors have given up and moved out. These homes sold real quick before Jet Blue began. It now takes many months to find the right buyer willing to tolerate the constant noise. Now that we are retired ; our house is up for sale.. Long Beach airport has cost me at least $300,000 in house value. I worked very hard to afford my dream; a beautiful beach close cul de sac home. Call me a nimby, but I did my due diligence when I purchased my home; only to have Jet Blue and the FAA ruin our quality of life.

    1. Rob, I don’t know where you live in Huntington but I’ve live in Easy Long Beach near CSULB, 90803. Much closer to the landing pattern than any part of HB. I have a great view of the jets from our pool. You’re crazy if you think the JetBlue planes make a lot of noise. Our neighbourhood is first class and I’ve never heard people complain about the airport noise. Everyone loves the convenience of flying LGB. $300K of lost house value — please. If you think the airport has become louder than in the 1980’s, you’re simply mistaken. Please move.

      1. Talk to any realtor about home values in regard to airport noise. The L.A. Times recently ran an article in which two realtors estimated that the homes values by Santa Monica airport suffered a 20-25% loss of value. My home is worth well over a million and would easily gain $300,000 without the jet noise and air pollution that comes with it. Airport noise complaints are rampant across the country. Just “google” it; it is endless. Why do you think that there are noise monitors and noise complaint employees at the airport. When Jet Blue started operations; the city of Huntington Beach was so overwhelmed with complaints that a town hall meeting was held with the FAA and Long Beach airport at our central library. The room was packed with an overflow crowd outside. The citizens were so upset that they were yelling at the FAA representatives. Chris Kuntz ; the head of the airport was getting nervous fearing that the crowd was getting out of hand. By the way; I know where Cris lives in Huntington Beach and there are no flight paths over his house. What a coincedence ! My point is; before Long Beach added Jet Blue; our neighborhood never had flights overhead coming into Long Beach or any of the other airports. Jet Blue complicated the airspace, so the FAA made flight pattern changes. Furthermore, it is impossible for a jet to be quiet at 1500′. Is the convenience of having an airport nearby that most people use only on an occasional basis worth the noise and air pollution that comes with it ? If the noise does not bother you, the jet fuel residue that you are breathing in should. I value my peace and my health; obviously you don’t and that is your right. If you wish to respond; at least look up the facts in regard to airport noise and air pollution. I must also add that the FAA does not care about us in regard to the environment. They hide behind a huge cloak that is very difficult to communicate with. They denied to me the facts for years until I finally talked to a retired FAA official that confirmed what I accused them of in regard to changing the flight paths. I will be moving; but it annoys me that it is because of the underhanded dealings that went on to bring Jet Blue into Long Beach. You can look that one up also.

        1. Rob, air pollution is a real concern and airports are a significant contributor. However, pushing air traffic away from demand (people, businesses, and destinations) doesn’t help.

          As for noise, I personally find police helicopter traffic (I believe HB has three units) much louder than the landing JetBlue Airbus and Embraer E-190s.

          Hope you find what you’re looking for.

  12. JetBlue didn’t complicate anything, the patterns were changed before JetBlue came in. And, in actuality, the change in pattern was a result of the in traffic to Orange County Airport!

    Realtors are self-interested, and I don’t agree with their statements. The problem with ‘anti-airport’ groups, is they have arguments they don’t support. How do you know the jet fuel residue is coming from JetBlue? With wind direction, altitude, temperature all having an impact, it could be jet fuel from the jumbo jets (747) and super jumbo (A380) arriving into LAX via the Seal Beach Corridor.

    I hope you find your home! I hear there’s some nice neighborhoods in the Santa Ana Heights and Eastbluff areas! Good Luck!

  13. In regard to realtors and their self interest; like it or not they have a significant influence on real estate prices. The old saying; “location, location” is so true. Virtually no one likes living under a 1500′ flight path. In regard to the pollution, the closer that you are to the source, the more affected you will be. Having 40 flights per day at 1500′ is a lot of pollution. Google jet fuel residue; it is nasty stuff. My neighbor just painted his patio cover and was disgusted with the black residue on top. In regard to the police helicopter; I agree that it is a serious noise polluter, but I only hear it a few times per week. I hear Jet Blue 30-40 times per day. The complaints to the city are in regard to Jet Blue. This was the topic at the town hall meeting. I understand defending the airport if you work there or use it weekly; other than those reasons; I don’t. I also understand that the pro airport people will always win once the airport is in place. The FAA is very self serving and will spend endless taxpayer money fighting anti-airport groups in court. The FAA even defended those obnoxious banner planes that pollute our coastline with their loud engines. The people of South County were smart and organized; they did a incredible job of voicing their opinion and are thrilled not to have an airport interrupting their lives. They feel that driving up north 10 – 50 miles to an airport is a small price to pay for their tranquility and I agree. Furthermore, investigate the So Cal Tracon website and look at the huge increase in near misses due to the increase in air traffic. The number is very concerning. I believe that Jet Blue complained to the FAA in regard to their near miss alarms going off at a high rate. Hopefully, I can sell my house and relocate to the Central Coast where people care about their community.

  14. It’s not about whether you ‘use or work’ at the airport. It’s more than that. It’s deplorable to me that they turned miles of pristine beach in to a state park – Bolsa Chica State Beach. The pollution from all the traffic and fires, the trash on the beach. However, other people see the value that I don’t. I’ll never go to Bolsa Chica, but thousands do every day. My point, the airport is an economic engine. it’s more than JetBlue, it’s Gulfstream Aerospace, Boeing, AirFlite, Signature Aviation, Marriott Hotel. From airlines, to flight schools, and real estate (at LGB and several airport around the country, real estate is a major core of business), the airport is a huge economic engine providing jobs and growth for the local economy.

    You are right, the FAA promotes aviation. Keep in mind, it’s not solely JetBlue causing the change in flight patterns, it’s a number of things that happened around the same time. JetBlue started LGB service prior to 9/11. I bring up 9/11 because air routes were change after 9/11 due to several security factors – restricting flights over Disneyland, and routes to airports such as LGB and SNA.

    Another thing to keep in mind, while you put the blame on Long Beach, please look to your county’s airport – SNA. The traffic at SNA in 1991 was about 4.6 million passengers. In 2013, SNA saw 9.2 million passengers, that’s double the traffic in 1991. According to airport statistics, there were an average of 112 daily flights out of SNA. All arrivals from the north to SNA transition over Huntington Beach on their downwind leg to the airport.

    My point, noise is one thing. Please don’t make pollution the issue – you have no proof whether the pollution came from jets going into LAX, SNA, or diesel trucks on the 405. While you accuse JetBlue and LGB about cause for the noise, are you sure it’s not the effect? Is it because the increase in SNA traffic they rerouted LGB arrivals. You may have never noticed until JetBlue started flying over.

  15. The fact is that a commercial jet flying at 1500′ over your neighborhood 40 times a day is extremely disturbing. I can hear that Jet Blue scream from almost a mile away. Long Beach constantly exceeds their noise standards. The library benefits and the rest of us suffer. Furthermore, at that low of an altitude there is obviously an abundance of jet fuel residue dropping directly on the homes below. Just think when the water tankers fight fires; they don’t drop from high altitudes; the water would be too greatly dispersed. Furthermore, we are much too far from the 405 to be affected by their source of pollution. In regard to SNA, yes it is a big problem. I really feel sorry for those people in the back bay and Newport Harbor that suffer from SNA. Furthermore, safety in the sky is being severely compromised. Between 2009 and 2010; air traffic control mistakes at So Cal Tracon increased 473 %. So many pro airport people have no concern for the homeowners . Their prime goal is to line their pockets at other people’s expense. I guess thier idol is the Koch brothers.They remind me of the developers that only want to build more and more ; eventually destroying the surroundings. Furthermore, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has never been responsive to noise complaints. With no accountability to the EPA or local jurisdictions the FAA is legally immune from any sort of regulation outside of direct intervention by the US Congress. Congress, being heavily lobbied by the airline industry, has historically acted in the best interests of the airlines with little or no recognition of the very real costs being born by those of us who live under the FAA’s flight paths. Airlines are thus free to route flights low over heavily populated areas, saving 5 or 10 minutes of flight time and $2 to $4 per ticket. The net effect of this airline industry lobbying is that our residential neighborhoods are subsidizing the aviation industry more than ever.In regard to Bolsa Chica; it is a very clean beach that is safely enjoyed by thousands. The wetlands are a wonderful sanctuary; unfortunately disturbed by Jet Blue fly overs. The only nice area in Long Beach is the Naples, Belmont shore and Heights area. If those Jet Blue’s flew over there; all hell would break loose among their citizens. The rest of Long Beach is a crime ridden cess pool. I do agree about the fires; I would like to see them banned. I know that H.B and Newport have lost to the FAA and the airport groups. It will cost me well over $100,000 in real estate commissions and capital gains; but it will be worth it to escape the noise and pollution generated by having so many airports in close proximity.

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