By Andy Franks, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 07/23/2008 10:02:44 PM PDT
As JetBlue Airways announced cutbacks elsewhere in the Southland on Wednesday, the carrier said it had no such plans at Long Beach Airport, where it is the busiest airline.
The airline is pulling its only service flight from Ontario, a nonstop to John F. Kennedy International Airport, after Labor Day.
It's the second such cutback by a major airline in as many days. United Airlines, the second-busiest carrier at Los Angeles International Airport, announced Tuesday that it would slash about 20 percent of its Southern California schedule, or about 40 flights a day, including nonstop service to Frankfurt and Hong Kong.
Sharon Diggs-Jackson, a spokeswoman for Long Beach Airport, said that correspondence with JetBlue doesn't indicate a plan to cut services.
Sebastian White, a JetBlue spokesman, confirmed that, saying that a flight reduction for the airport would not be advantageous.
"We certainly have no plans to cut anything in Long Beach - it's not advantageous," he said. "Long Beach does great for us, and we're pretty committed to it."
The news also comes just weeks after ExpressJet, which offered Long Beach Airport's only flights to Reno/Tahoe, Fresno and Monterey, said it would cut its flights starting in September due to rising fuel costs.
JetBlue is currently the busiest airline at Long Beach Airport, using 28 of its 41 available daily flight slots, the maximum allowed at the airport.
The airline operates 10 exclusive flight destinations at Long Beach, including Las Vegas, New York and Oakland. In addition to its 28 contracted slots, the airline currently uses two underutilized Alaska Airline slots, which they accepted in early June to use through September.
Travel from Long Beach Airport has been "holding steady," according to Diggs-Jackson, seeing only a 4 percent decrease in passenger traffic for June, and saying that the next indicator will be post-Labor Day travel patterns.
In JetBlue's quarterly report on Tuesday, executives announced a "flat-growth" plan, with neither plans to expand nor cut services for the remainder of the year. JetBlue recently added a new route to Long Beach Airport from Portland, Ore., that will start in September.
JetBlue first came to Southern California when it added the flight at Ontario in 2000, with later additions at Long Beach Airport in 2001, San Diego International Airport in 2003 and Burbank's Bob Hope Airport in 2005.
JetBlue has expanded at the Long Beach and Burbank airports for years, and announced last February the introduction of several flights at LAX - 3 to JFK and 1 to Logan International Airport in Boston.
During a stockholder's meeting in May 2007, then JetBlue Chief Executive Officer David Neeleman actually cited Ontario, along with LAX, as a possible site for expansion in the region. Those plans, however, appear quashed.
The cutbacks will "have an economic impact on this region," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said. "We're making many improvements at the airport. Those airport improvements are funded by the airline industry, so to the extent that this is having an impact, it will have a reverberating impact across the board."
The mayor called JetBlue's decision to leave Ontario a "devastating blow." "The whole regionalization of the airport is predicated on us moving more traffic out toward Ontario Airport," he said. Ontario and LAX are operated by Los Angeles World Airports, a Los Angeles city agency.
In all, the Ontario Airport is expected to lose 37 percent of its flights in the fall, making it one of the nation's hardest hit by an industry-wide rush to cut flights amid soaring fuel costs.
JetBlue reported losses in its second quarter, along with United and American airlines, which totaled $7 million, compared with a year-ago profit of $21 million, or 11 cents per share.