While most airlines are scaling back due to weakened demand amid the coronavirus pandemic, Southwest Airlines is planning for the future — and that future appears to include becoming the most active airline at the Long Beach Airport.
Southwest has claimed all 17 permanent flight slots relinquished by JetBlue, which is ending service in Long Beach effective Oct. 7. Its last day of service is Oct. 6.
Long Beach officials said in a statement that when JetBlue surrendered its slots, the city reached out to other airlines to see if they were interested in expanding their presence.
“Some carriers expressed interest,” the statement said, “but indicated the timing was not ideal.”
Delta Air Lines and Hawaiian Airlines were both already on a waiting list for more slots but declined the opportunity to claim more.
Southwest, however, wanted them all.
“This is a vote of confidence in the boutique travel experience we offer at our airport,” Airport Director Cynthia Guidry said in a statement. “We are thrilled to see Southwest increase their presence at LGB and grateful for their ongoing partnership.”
New destinations have not yet been announced, but “it is expected that the airline will increase its current offering of nonstop destinations from LGB,” the city’s statement said.
Southwest earlier this year announced its plans to offer new nonstop service to Phoenix and Austin. Flights to Phoenix begin this month, while flights to Austin will kick off in November.
The airline first offered service in Long Beach in 2016 and has slowly expanded its presence ever since.
Before JetBlue announced it would end service in Long Beach, the two airlines were tied for most flight slots at the airport, with 17 each.
Now, Southwest has 34 slots, more than twice the next in line, which is Delta, with 12. American Airlines comes in third, with three slots, followed by Hawaiian, with two. FedEx and UPS round out the list with one slot each.
“Southwest has established decades of consistency as the hometown carrier of California,” Andrew Watterson, Southwest’s executive vice president and chief commercial officer, said in a statement, “and soon will proudly offer more for Long Beach.”