With all the excitement surrounding JetBlue’s London announcement yesterday, news of a crackdown at an airport on the other coast slipped off the radar.
JetBlue has big expansion plans to Europe. Service will start with London in 2021 from Boston and New York and may grow to several more cities in the years ahead.
Meanwhile, JetBlue has continued to dismantle its Long Beach hub as it focuses on more lucrative routes. That has left airport officials in Long Beach forced to confront JetBlue’s gate squatting, as it continues to strategically pare back it schedule while trying to keep competition out.
In a memo (.pdf) sent to JetBlue and shared with city officials, JetBlue is warned that it must actually use its slots or it faces losing them. Airport rules require the following slot usage:
- During any Calendar Month – 60% minimum
- During any Calendar Quarter – 70% minimum
- During any Calendar Year – 85% minimum
JetBlue has not lived up to that these relatively-recently introduced requirements (the prior rule only required 57% usage over any 180 day period). Now, Long Beach’s Airport Director could reduce JetBlue’s flight slots or at the very least disqualify JetBlue should it wish to receive more slots in the future.
JetBlue did provide a response to the new rule:
We are a proud member of the Long Beach community and will continue to offer Long Beach residents access to the best onboard experience of any airline that flies here, just as we have for more than 17 years. While we believe this rule change is unnecessary as evidenced by the numerous unused slots already available, we remain committed to providing a level of flying in Long Beach that the market will support.
JetBlue’s last sentence is contradicted by the City of Long Beach, which shares that Delta and Hawaiian are on the waitlist for more slots (so is JetBlue, of course, and Southwest). Both Delta and Hawaiian have a 100% slot utilization rate.
JetBlue believes Long Beach is targetting it with unfair treatment. This battle stems from Long Beach’s decision to fine JetBlue heavily for breaking the airport curfew (a settlement was reached) and ban international travel. JetBlue blames both decisions for its pullback from Long Beach. In reality, JetBlue has found more lucrative opportunities elsewhere. I expect JetBlue to eventually cede some of its Long Beach slots.