A Long Beach Story: JetBlue to the Bay Area, Southwest Back (Trip Report)

JetBlue, Southwest, Trip Reports

After my last Scotland travelogue, this one is going to be pretty boring, but hey, it still involves a flight and it’s still worth writing. In yet another sign of just how quickly time passes, this year marked my 15th reunion from business school. That meant I’d need to head up to the Bay Area to see some old friends. I needed to be closer to SFO on the way up but was indifferent on the return since Stanford is right in between. Naturally, I just looked at schedules between Southwest and JetBlue so I could pick the one that fit best from Long Beach. On a trip like this, there was no way I was going to brave LAX.

I took JetBlue up for $88.30 (using an old credit) and then paid a mere $49 for a Southwest return from San Jose. (That must have been an intro fare since the flight had only started a few days earlier.) This was not only cheap but it would help avoid the dreaded SFO delays any time a cloud rolls by.

For the flight up, I checked in on my phone and left the office about an hour before departure. At the airport, I was surprised to see that the next phase of renovations well underway. The old baggage claim areas on the south side (where JetBlue was) are gone and walled off. That’s where they’re building the new ticketing building.

Security was completely empty to the point where I had to wait for the TSA agent to stop talking to someone else so she could run the bag through the belt. She was oblivious to anyone actually being there.

On the other side, I snapped a quick shot of Bluerica, a special livery that looks better up close than from afar. (This one honors Puerto Rico.) Then I walked further down to where my regular-liveried aircraft was waiting.

May 2, 2019
JetBlue 2136 Lv Long Beach 144p Arr San Francisco 314p
Long Beach (LGB): Gate 9, Runway 30, Depart 7m Early
San Francisco (SFO): Gate A11B, Runway 28L, Arrive 16m Early
N834JB, Airbus A320-232, “Keep Blue and Carry On” Blueberries tail, ~85% Full
Seat 8A, Coach
Flight Time 57m

I had found an uncommonly forward seat 8A when I booked, and that meant I was in group C. I boarded and was pleased to see the newer-old interior. You know what I mean if you’ve flown JetBlue. It’s not the one that looks ancient with squared-off seats and tiny screens, but it’s also not the new fancy one.

I pulled down my armrest to find it falling apart. After smacking it and pushing and pulling, I was able to get it locked back into place. I tried to plug in to watch TV but they weren’t letting that happen yet. So I just waited as we filled up and pushed back a little early.

After the safety briefing, they turned on the intro spiel for the TV where you have to sit through a bunch of ads. I found this latest iteration to be pure torture. They showed the Marriott Bonvoy ad twice and there was nothing I could do about it but rip my earbuds out of my ear and look away.

We took off and headed west as usual before pointing north. The flight attendants came through with drinks and I had water. I also had a bag of Pop Corners. I had turned on wifi and while it wasn’t as blazing fast as usual, it was plenty fast for me to get some work done. Just when I was hitting my stride, it was time to descend.

Fortunately it was a clear day at SFO so I had no delays to worry about. We came parallel to the peninsula and then touched down. We taxied around for awhile and then we sat, waiting for our gate to clear. It wasn’t all that long before we parked, a few minutes early.

On the way out, I noticed how far along they’re coming on that Terminal 1 redo. The hotel near the entrance to the airport is also coming up nicely. I hadn’t been to SFO for some time, and apparently I’ve missed a lot.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to return to SFO on this trip. My wife and kids and had flown up Saturday morning on a VERY empty flight on Southwest from Long Beach to San Jose (she didn’t think there were even 40 onboard). But we figured the return would be more full on a Sunday afternoon. It was, but not by all that much. I got my first hint of how empty it would be when I checked us in a day in advance. We had A29-32 with no EarlyBird purchased.

We left our friend’s house and drove down to San Jose. I was a little confused. Our gate said 13, which is in A, but Southwest is in Terminal B. I didn’t realize Southwest had stretched into A. (Apparently the new temporary gates which just opened at the end of B have solved that issue.)

Since we needed to print out boarding passes, we walked into B and did that. Then we went through security (took only about 5 minutes) and started the long walk over to A. If there’s one thing I don’t like about the San Jose Airport, it’s the long walks involved.

We made it to our gate. Even though there was limited seating, it wasn’t full. This was despite being next to a gate with a flight to Burbank.

Our former China Eastern aircraft was at the gate waiting for us. They weren’t in a big hurry, but when they called for boarding I ambled over to get in line. Then we boarded.

May 5, 2019
Southwest 6957 Lv San Jose 1p Arr Long Beach 215p
San Jose (SJC): Gate 13, Runway 30R, Depart 1m Early
Long Beach (LGB): Gate 2, Runway 30, Arrive 7m Early
N7820L, Boeing 737-79P, Hot Dog on a Stick colors, ~60% Full
Seat 2B, Coach
Flight Time 56m

Flying into Long Beach means you can use the stairs in the back to get off, so I prefer to just stay away from the middle when I can. Our early boarding number meant we didn’t have to go to the back. We took 2AB and 3AB.

During boarding, the flight attendant kept telling people there was no reason to crowd. Just go to the back and there would be plenty of room. In the end, she mentioned that we were expecting 87 people onboard. For a prime time flight on Sunday afternoon, that is not good. (And the fares were really cheap.) Then again, this route just started, so it can take time to ramp up. I know this route has never done well for JetBlue, so it might just be a dog. I’ll enjoy it while I can.

We pushed back on time. The pilots said they had just come up from Long Beach and it was a nice ride, so they expected the same for the return trip. We taxied along and saw the new temp gates which had yet to open.

With nobody ahead of us, we took off toward the northwest and then climbed fast. In fact, the fast climb followed by the rapid leveling on a couple occasions made me feel a little airsick, something that almost never happens. But that feeling subsided quickly once we were in cruise way up at 37,000 feet.

It was a pretty day to fly, and the flight attendants came through with drinks and pretzels. After a short time up there, we started heading down. It was a spectacular sight as we came in over the ocean, west of Los Angeles and had a great view of LAX.

We then threw a lasso around Palos Verdes. The view of the port was impressive, with many tankers lined up.

We came in over Huntington Beach and then lined up for a greaser of a landing nice and early. From there, it was an easy trip home.

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19 comments on “A Long Beach Story: JetBlue to the Bay Area, Southwest Back (Trip Report)

  1. Thanks Cranky. Interesting how B6 at LGB never materialized into the west coast hub they had hoped for. And now I don’t expect this west coast flying to last long into Blue’s cost cutting and competitive east coast future.

    Makes me wonder how future airline “Moxy” will fare. We don’t know what they plan on flying exactly, does Neeleman think he can serve these types of markets better? Perhaps both of your flights would have been optimized on a fuel efficient 100-seater.

    1. SYGuy – JetBlue tried 100 seaters in Long Beach briefly, and they realized it didn’t work well. These are markets with low fares that need lower unit costs. Filling the airplanes generally isn’t a big issue. It’s about the fare. I don’t imagine Moxy would come to Long Beach, it wouldn’t be able to get enough slots the way Neeleman got them back in 2001.

  2. Whether JetBlue sticks around at LGB is a management level decision. Since the cuts, they are not doing so badly that they have to cut it. It’s not a major drag on their PnL or margins. And I don’t see them doing better on same routes on LAX. So my guess is that they will stick it out. The only route that’s really underperforming is SJC. I could see them dropping that and move the flights to SFO or LAS or PDX

  3. I was on a Jet Blue Phase 1 bird from MCO-LAX last week and it was very nice to have the 321 product on the 320.

  4. What’s happening with the new slot allocations at LGB? Do we know how this affects Southwest’s future schedule, and what Delta is going to do with their new slots?

    1. Ron – Yes, it’s done. Delta gained 4 slots and will fly 1 to Salt Lake (making it 5 a day total) along with 3 to Vegas. Southwest gets the others, but since it was temporarily using those slots that Delta now has, it will have to cut back. It looks like it’ll stop the daily Denver flight and cut back in Vegas, primarily.

      1. Vegas. Ouch. Taking out half the seats and all (or most) of the eastbound connecting opportunities that were available on Southwest. I was hoping for something useful like MSP, but I guess Delta is just squatting on the slots. Any idea why they might want to do that?

        1. Ron – Because they can? Anything to poke Southwest in the eye, I guess. I can’t imagine anyone thought this was a real golden profit opportunity.

          1. I will go out on a not very long limb and say that Delta would probably be a lot less motivated to do stuff like this if the Love Field issue were resolved in a way that gives Delta space to grow beyond its current 5 flights/day to Atlanta – which is what they originally filed schedules to do before United sold its gate rights to WN.

            For now, and regardless of Love Field, it does make a lot of sense for DAL to limit WN’s abililty to connect passengers to the east. But I can’t help but think the two are connected.

            Supposedly the Love Field case goes to trial in Sept.

            1. Yes, I agree! As someone who lives in the DFW Area, DL is getting the screw from WN.

              I don’t think DL realized how valuable LGB was to WN until recently. I would expect DL to take more slots at LGB when and if they become available!

            2. @Dutch Goldberg Vice Pres
              You, the Dallas federal judge who heard the first round of the DL/WN spat and most logical people come to the same conclusion.
              As much as the City of Dallas, WN or anyone wants to argue otherwise, Delta is not a party to any of the agreements between AA, WN and any Texas party which means that federal law requires that the City of Dallas accommodate Delta’s request for service as a non-leaseholding airline at Love Field just as applies at every other federally funded airport.
              Delta already was serving ATL-DAL before UA and WN engaged in their gate transaction and Delta also had already made request for additional flights – about 15 total IIRC – before WN released schedules to fill its gates at Love Field.
              Delta has a long history of being competitive with any airline’s service that touches one of its hubs; that is precisely why Delta is the only airline that serves both Chicago airports that have commercial service, both Houston airports, all 3 Bay area and all Basin airports, and both Dallas area airports.
              The DOJ got involved in the gate mess at Love Field as part of the AA-US merger and awarded 2 gates to AS and, as most government intervention in the free market does, the market has been distorted. AS has not been able to profitably and sustainably use the gates as evidenced by its repeated addition and cancellation of service.
              AS has reduced its schedule once again so perhaps there is a settlement coming but I doubt if Delta is going to accept simply moving its 5 flights/day to Atlanta to an AS gate with no growth potential.
              Further, it is no secret that WN has been the biggest loser in DL’s new hub and focus city strategy with lost share at SEA, BOS, and RDU even as WN’s presence at ATL shrinks. It is also no surprise that DL’s latest list of focus cities – AUS, BNA and SJC – are all major cities for WN and where they are the largest carrier. DL would not have made those focus city designations if it had not already obtained gate space for growth at those cities- all of which have far more demand for air service than the number of current gates.
              LGB is just one more part of DL’s clearly successful strategy of gaining airport space or slots and market share in markets where WN is or has been the largest or one of the largest carriers or wants to grow. DL has also been the fastest growing of the big 3 at SNA.
              There is no assurance that DL’s growth focus on WN strength markets will change even w/ a settlement at Love Field but DL is clearly looking for every opportunity to use federal laws which are enforced in every other airport to grow at WN’s expense.

  5. Ontario Intl Airport ONT is often the best airport to fly into/out of the Los Angeles area.

  6. As I’ve said often, nobody does these write-ups better than you do. Thanks!

    It’s the start of what used to be the fiscal year. Just wondering:

    Are aircraft manufacturers ensuring that safety is still mission number one?

    Are today’s airliners being maintained fully and properly?

    Is FAA doing its mission-safety job responsibly?

    Is today’s airline competition ideal?

    Are airlines serving more cities than they need to and should be?

    Are we nearing the point were all airline service, domestically, will be operated by regionals, in regional aircraft?

    Can we responsibly say that regional-operated aircraft and regional flight crews are no different, surely no worse,than that of the mainline operators?

    Are air fares currently much higher than they could and ought to be?

    Have we reached the point where, to most consumers, types of flights, types of aircraft, types of operators, mean almost nothing? It’s all about the price.

    Are we just about to the point where computer glitches will bring the entire airline industry to a halt, for more than just a short period of time?

    Is it all that difficult for a single employee or a group of employees, or contractors, to cause computer glitches to bring a single airline to a complete halt, for a significant period of time?

  7. It’s interesting you said the southwest aircraft was almost empty. I had a friend who flew SWA 3 weeks ago from Denver to Houston on a Sunday afternoon and he said there were only 11 people on board. His return flight on a Thursday morning was only half full as well.

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