Long Beach Gets 9 New Slots, But Which Airlines Will Want Them?

You all know I love nothing more than some local drama at my hometown airport. This time, however, it’s not the customs facility (which continues to slowly crawl through the process), but something more concrete. Bryant Francis, the Airport Director, notified the city on Monday that after reviewing last year’s noise stats, the airport will be increasing the number of daily slot pairs from 41 to 50. This should happen pretty quickly.

Without getting into a huge backstory here, Long Beach has been slot-controlled since the 1990s when community groups and airlines came to an agreement. There would be 25 commuter slots (which are insignificant – Delta uses 3 and that’s it) and a minimum of 41 air carrier slots (which are fully assigned). A minimum? Yeah, using noise profiles back then, a lower boundary of 41 was set to correlate to a maximum amount of noise in the community. Today, airplanes are a lot quieter, so that means more slots can be added and still allow the airport to stay under the noise limit. If airlines suddenly decided they could make millions flying silent gliders, then theoretically there would be no maximum at all. As long as the total air carrier operations stay under the noise limit, then all is well.

This is reviewed annually, but in the past, slots hadn’t been added. Part of the reason is that MD-80s flew here until Allegiant pulled out a couple years back. Those are loud and filled up the noise bucket quickly. But with American ditching more MD-80s every day and Allegiant acquiring newer aircraft, the chance of an MD-80 being deployed again is slim. A review of last year’s noise showed that air carrier flights only used 60 percent of the total allowed. Yes, JetBlue underutilizes its slots so that would account for a big part of the shortfall, but the multiple consultants on the project conservatively scaled it up to show noise levels assuming slots were used 95 percent of the time. Even with that, it was determined that 9 slots could easily be added.

Long Beach Noise Bucket Usage

I should add that if JetBlue decides to deploy a fleet of 707s in Long Beach or if Allegiant decided to come back in with MD-80s, then we’d probably go over the noise limit. That means next year, they’d have to cut back. And the first flights to go by law? The loudest ones. Nobody is going to bring in loud airplanes here or it’ll be short-lived.

The City Council is being briefed about this on Tuesday, but happily, the council has no ability to change this unless it wants to try to alter the noise ordinance. That’s a bad idea. After all, the ordinance is one of the few in the nation that’s grandfathered in and allowed to remain intact. Most people agree that trying to make changes to the noise ordinance would put it at risk of being removed entirely. It’s better to keep it as is and work within the confines of what it provides. That’s one area where all sides seem to agree.

So with this change expect to take effect pretty quickly, what are the odds that this will mean a lot more service? Despite many people suggesting that the noise ordinance has been holding back tremendous demand, I’m not buying it. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if some of these new slots went unassigned. Here’s how I view it.

Best Chance

  • Delta – I expect Delta to be most interested. It has 2 slots which is uses to fly CRJ-900s to Salt Lake. But it has 3 commuter slots which is uses to fly CRJ-700s (the largest airplane eligible) on the same route. I would think Delta might want a couple more big jet slots so it could ditch the commuter slots and standardize on CRJ-900s. But Atlanta? JFK? I would be shocked.
  • Allegiant – Allegiant tried and failed here, but part of the issue was it couldn’t get more slots. What if it could get enough? Would it move from LAX if the price is right? It couldn’t use MD-80s or it would lose those slots within a year due to noise. But with Airbuses, that might be interesting. I still think it’s unlikely, but it makes more sense than for others.
  • WestJet or Air Canada – Now here’s an outside the box thought. Canadian airlines don’t need customs facilities because they pre-clear in Canada. Could they sell Long Beach as the gateway to Disneyland and make a flight work? Possibly. I’d think WestJet might be a better bet.

Maybe

  • American – American has 5 big jet slots which it uses to fly to Phoenix. Might it like a couple to send to Dallas/Ft Worth? I would have said yes until American decided to start matching Spirit’s fares on DFW-LAX. Fares are really low there, so I would be surprised if it wanted to add Long Beach, a market that’s tied closely to LAX fares.
  • Frontier – Frontier failed miserably on its one effort here, but that was a different airline. I just don’t think Long Beach would be a priority, but maybe I’m wrong. It could be a chance to base an airplane and do some interesting flying. But Frontier isn’t growing. It’s just replacing smaller A319s with A321s. That’s not a good fit for Long Beach.
  • JetBlue – I’m sure you were wondering when I’d get here. After all, JetBlue holds 32 of the 41 slots today. Would it want more? I doubt it. In the winter, it flies near the bare minimum, which requires basically flying your slots half the time. (JetBlue may have 17 or 18 daily flights in the winter.) JetBlue could fly more today but it doesn’t want to. Picking up new slots would require it to do more flying it doesn’t want to do now. Seems unlikely, but then again, JetBlue might like to try to prevent competition by squatting on more slots.
  • Sun Country – Uh, probably not? I have no clue what that airline does or thinks, so I’ll just say maybe.

Highly Unlikely

  • United – If United wanted to fly to Denver or SFO, it probably would have done it with a CRJ-700 years ago. The commuter slots were available, but it had no interest. I don’t see why it would want a bigger airplane now.
  • Southwest – Southwest has a very large presence at LAX (which is soon to grow when terminal work is done) and at Orange County. It would be hard to imagine Southwest showing much interest in the 9 slots at Long Beach. I’m sure it’ll take a look, but that would be a real surprise.
  • Alaska – Alaska had big jet slots which is gave up a couple years ago. Then it flew commuters until giving up earlier this year. If it wanted to be here, it wouldn’t have left.
  • Hawaiian – This might be of marginal interest if Hawaiian had its A321neos, but a widebody? Not a chance.
  • Spirit – Spirit prefers primary airports. It continues to build up quickly at LAX. This wouldn’t be of interest.
  • Virgin America – To fly to SFO? No. It couldn’t make Orange County work. This won’t either.

Now we sit and wait to see what happens. Since this doesn’t get bogged down as City Council business, I’d think it would move relatively quickly. Some time in the new year, we could see some more flights in Long Beach. Just the idea is exciting, even if it doesn’t result in anything substantial.

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50 Responses to Long Beach Gets 9 New Slots, But Which Airlines Will Want Them?

  1. XJT DX says:

    Regarding the Canadian carriers, I know General Aviation must still land at an airport where customs is available, in case CBP deems there is a reason re-clearing is necessary, and for international trash removal. Would the same restrictions exist for commercial flights?

    • XJT DX – Not that I’m aware of. Otherwise, Air Canada wouldn’t be able to fly to LaGuardia or National.

      • John C says:

        LGB, like LGA and DCA, has customs available on the GA side, so pre-cleared Canada flights wouldn’t be an issue if Customs decides to re-screen them.

  2. Jeremy says:

    We need an article devoted to finding out what Sun Country does, and how they think.

    • Junior/Senior says:

      Jeremy, spot on. I want to know what they do and how they think, oh great mystery airline of the northern wastelands.

      • lundberry says:

        I would hardly call Minnesota the northern wastelands. We pump out great airlines like the old Northwest and todays Sun Country (though seriously no one seems to know how to keep sun country profitable until Cambria). I feel like they won’t come in they tend to not do two airports in the same market. They are also very niche.

    • tharanga says:

      I agree. If Sun Country didn’t exist, and somebody started up an airline of that sort, I wouldn’t expect it to survive. And yet there it is, quietly carrying on, year after year. Flying under the radar.

      • Sean S. says:

        Like Lundberry said, they fill a regional niche of leisure destinations from the midwest. The big difference between them and Apple Vacations/Funjet is that they have their own crews/planes and that they are scheduled. But otherwise they provide the exact same service. They have been expanding into some smaller retirement/cheaper beach areas in the SE, but I don’ts them moving into Longreach unless there was some strong snowbird/beachgoers who weren’t already better served by a bunch of options to LAX.

  3. Jeff says:

    Cranky, I would love to see an across-the-isle with Sun Country. Maybe you can figure out what the airline is thinking. I guess being privately owned you don’t have to share much for a growth plan or operational style. All I see is that they have a strong local product brand, but they don’t really fit into the various niches of the other airlines.

  4. Alex Hill says:

    What about Delta to SEA on a CR9 or E175? The fact that Alaska couldn’t make it work and that Delta hasn’t tried a CR7 on the route yet probably puts it in the maybe category at best, but given that DL already has the station for the SLC flights, seems possible. I’ve given up being surprised by Delta additions at SEA; having breakfast in the central dining area there the other day, I was struck by all the large DL regional jets parked in the B gates. Maybe they’ll send one down to LGB, particularly if they consolidate the 5 SLC flights to 3 or 4.

    • southbay flier says:

      Could DL take a slot pair and use it for a flight to MSP? That has a lot more connecting opportunities to the Midwest and east coast than SLC.

      • Carl says:

        They could do that now if they wanted to. DL holds 2 Air Carrier slots, so they could run 2x MSP if they wanted to. All they would need to do is down gauge the SLC flights to CRJ700 and ask for more commuter slots if they needed more than the current 3 they have.

  5. Sean says:

    Wild speculation – DL to start service to Seattle and increase service to Salt Lake. Honestly, bc LGB is such a small, wonderful airport, I’d love to see someone start a type of west-coast shuttle service – it offers the convenience both OC and Angelenos want.

    • mharris127 says:

      Sean, I am unsure what you mean by “west-coast shuttle” but if you mean flights to SFO or OAK (San Francisco Bay area) Delta already has that from LAX, last I knew they flew 15 round-trips a day on that route. There is also the colloquially named “Kink shuttle” Southwest flies that is used heavily by both Cybernet Entertainment in SF and Intersec in Oakland to transport LA based adult performers to their studios and back, there are four LAX to OAK flights in the AM, six more noon to six pm and three more in the evening — another 13 flights (with 13 return trips from OAK to LAX). I doubt there is the market for any more LAX to SFO/OAK traffic.

      • Kilroy says:

        Interesting. Never thought about the need for that kind of a shuttle, but it makes sense, especially given that Cybernet is apparently now named Kink.com (NSFW, obviously) and produces the kinds of adult entertainment that one might expect, given the name.

    • Carl says:

      Would be nice, since my company is SEA based, but with the new SNA-SEA flights, I don’t know if DL would add LGB so close to the start of SNA.

  6. Anon says:

    Alaska serving Hawaii seems somewhat possible. They do it from a lot of other smaller west coast airports.

    • Anon – Were Alaska interested, it probably would have done that before it gave up its slots at LGB a couple years ago. It had the same strategy then and still wasn’t interested.

  7. Tory says:

    I think JetBlue to Houston Hobby would be a winner. Orange County fares are too high on SWA and UA.

  8. austinflyguy says:

    What are the economics of LGB? Are landing fees any lower than LAX or SNA? Is it purely lack of slots at the others that would drive a carrier to this place? From a passenger perspective, if you have experienced this airport once you would always want to go back.

    • austinflyguy – Yes, fees are lower, but they have been climbing as JetBlue has decreased flights. (Fewer passengers to spread the fees out over.)

    • DAB says:

      No. If you experience being at a small airport and having no options so you are stuck if there is a problem, you avoid the small airport. Nobody in their right mind expects a pleasant experience at LAX; but I don’t fly for the experience. I fly to get business done.

      A lot of my colleagues do use LGB, but DL has enough flights to SLC that they aren’t as exposed. I don’t go that direction generally. Also, my airline of status is UA…

  9. Bob Hallett says:

    Air Canada had a flight to Long Island a couple of years ago; I took it once, when I had a conference at the college. It was a 319 from Toronto. It could not have been much of a success, it disappeared a year or so ago.

  10. JMR says:

    When I search for ‘commuter slots Long Beach airport’, the first results are from this site :).

    What does it really mean? Max 49 passengers?

    • Carl says:

      Commuter slot is defined as an airplane with a MTOW of 75,000 lbs. Which equates to CRJ7 or smallers.

    • JMR – To add to what Carl says, only the Embraer 145 or smaller counts. None of the larger Embraers fit. So for anything above 50 seats, it’s the CRJ-700 or a prop.

    • JMR says:

      Thank you, Cranky and Carl! Now I understand. Have a great weekend!

  11. David SF eastbay says:

    Well since DL wants to be every where these days, it could grab them for SEA/PDX service to once more try and best Alaska in those cities.

  12. Arcanum says:

    I wish Toronto’s Billy Bishop airport had such a reasonable approach to noise limits!

  13. Kilroy says:

    Cranky,

    Any idea how much those “multiple consultants” cost LGB each year? An ordinance like this must create some nice steady work year after year for consultants. Even if the consulting projects are fairly small, every dollar counts, and the fees for the consultants can’t be helping the cost per enplanement.

  14. Ron says:

    1. Delta currently use the CRJ-900, but in the past they’ve also used the A319. I wonder if the 717 would be a happy medium, now that they have some based in Salt Lake.

    2. Two airlines missing from the list are FedEx and UPS. Each currently has one slot that is used for an evening departure to their East Coast hubs (Memphis and Louisville), but they used to have more. Will the new slots increase their appetite? Then again, the current freight operations (A300, 767) are the loudest commercial jets serving the airport. Which makes me wonder: Suppose the new slots are utilized and the total noise bucket is exceeded, could that be used to force out FedEx and UPS, or are their operations grandfathered in?

    • Ron – Couple thoughts.

      1) The A319s only flew during the summer and not for a couple years now. Could a flight go 717? Maybe some day, but I’d be surprised.

      2) UPS used to have another and it gave that up. But I don’t think they’ll care. UPS has a big operation in Ontario and FedEx at LAX. LGB is for more local, high dollar express service. I don’t think it needs more. And as far as I know, there is no grandfather clause. But you would think that the original 41 would have some sort of permanence compared to any that are added after. Good question.

  15. John says:

    Can anyone provide insight into the grandfathered noise ordinance piece? Are/how they no longer allowed. Also guessing that SNAs ordinance is also grandfathered in? Thanks!

  16. Jaymanlb says:

    As a Long Beach resident and owner of a business here, I am thrilled at this! jetBlue has reduced frequencies and times that are business-friendly (like being able to do a Seattle or SLC turnaround in one day– early morning departure from LGB and evening departures to LGB), so I would love it if they could add in more business-friendly frequencies and times. Also, I would LOVE it if AA added back DFW… until 2006, AA had big jets to DFW (they also had jets to ORD and JFK until B6 killed them)… but if they had DFW flights, I would imagine a lot of people would go back to LGB instead of the dreaded LAX. DFW has the connections that PHX doesn’t always offer. Finally… It would be great if WN looked at LGB for flights to LAS, OAK, DAL, or even Houston Hobby. Great opportunities. I am thrilled!

    • ZuluLima says:

      I was hoping B6 would be the one adding DFW from LGB (and FLL). Right now the metroplex is a dead-end for them. If they could get more exposure in Dallas, maybe people around here would realize how terrible AA is.

  17. David M says:

    Weren’t there rumors when Allegiant was at Long Beach that the real reason they wanted the slots was for Hawaii flights? But the delays in getting the 757s certified meant that they flew other places to hold the slots until they decided it wasn’t going to work out.

    Hawaii has been a long-time rumored destination for LGB. Remember when Rich International was going to fly LGB-Hawaii with the L-1011?

    • CF says:

      David M – Yes, Allegiant wanted Hawai’i but it didn’t get the airplanes in time. There was a change in the planning team and they decided it wasn’t worth waiting. Of course, Hawai’i wouldn’t be an option for Allegiant this time anyway since they’re pulling out.

  18. TC says:

    How about any service to Mexico? Can another airline that wants to run numerous slots to airports in Mexico join JetBlue in the fight to arrange to have ICE established at the airport? They can arrange to have all the arriving flights to come in the evening around the same time to keep the agents hours of service to a minimum. In MIA, ICE has two terminals they operate out of North (Concourse D-AA) and South (Concourse J-Most other Airlines). J closes for a few hours in the evening and any arrivals are sent to D. As well, D closes at midnight sending any late arriving AA flights to J until it reopens at 4am.

    FLL closes at a certain time (around midnight) and any late arriving flights are diverted to MIA for ICE. Private planes can land, go through ICE and takeoff to FLL or smaller general aviation airports at MIA when this happens. Commercial operators like Spirit and JetBlue usually just transport their passengers to FLL at their expense when this happens albeit rarely. Most of the time if a ground-delayed plane is unable to make ICE in FLL, it is delayed so the arrival occurs after FLL opens in the morning. Sometimes delays occur in the air and that’s when the diversion happens.

    The same can happen with LGB and LAX with an establishment of ICE hours of operation.

    • CF says:

      TC – A customs facility is years away so there’s no way that any foreign carrier could participate here. This is going to happen relatively quickly and the carrier wouldn’t be able to use the slots so it would lose them.

  19. Yo says:

    I’m thinking this is a great opportunity for Avatar Airlines!!!!

  20. Jim says:

    Virgin America couldn’t make Orange County work because there were 3 other airlines flying the route at the time: incumbents AA and UA, and newcomer Southwest. Southwest in particular has an hourly shuttle service.

    If they try LGB-SFO, they will only be competing against JetBlue’s few flights a day. That may be a bit more viable.

  21. I think best chance is Delta or WestJet or Air Canada as compare to others.

  22. Jaymanlb says:

    I just saw this article about DAL and in it, it says that Southwest will begin service to LGB: http://airwaysnews.com/blog/2016/01/09/38484/

  23. Tom Martin says:

    Here are a couple to think about. With the talk about Customs at LGB, let’s start early with pre-cleared flights, WestJet was already mentioned. How about Aer Lingus or Etihad since SNN/DUB and AUH have pre-clearance!

    It’s too bad UA doesn’t want LGB, that would complete the picture (of the majors). The CRJ-700 is perfect for LGB-IAH and businessmen don’t mind flying in it either! Plenty of commuter slots available!

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