JetBlue is considering a pull-out from its West Coast hub of Long Beach, citing frustration over a lack of facility improvements at the Los Angeles-area airport. Long Beach is JetBlue’s fifth-busiest destination, and is the West Coast anchor for much of the airline’s cross-country service.
JetBlue CEO Dave Barger told The Cranky Flier, “Municipalities must make good on their commitments. That includes parking, terminals, baggage claim and every other part of the experience.” JetBlue spokeswoman Jenny Dervin, speaking to the Los Angeles Times, added, “We have to face the facts that we are in temporary trailers [as opposed to a proper terminal], and that’s not acceptable. It doesn’t serve our customers, and it doesn’t serve our brand. We want to go where we are wanted.”
Airport officials were seemingly unprepared for the comments, and claimed they had no idea the airline was considering leaving. The airport has plans to replace its existing temporary gates, but the recession has forced a reevaluation of the project. Other improvements have been slowed or scaled back. This seems to be at the center of JetBlue’s frustration.
And while it’s easy to brush off JetBlue’s comments as mere negotiating tactics, it’s important to note that JetBlue doesn’t have a long-term commitment with Long Beach. The airport has month-to-month arrangements with its tenants, meaning JetBlue could pull out quickly—assuming it can find a home elsewhere in the area. Barger suggested LAX is interested in the carrier, but customers generally prefer Long Beach because there’s less congestion, both at the airport and on the way there.
It will be interesting to see how this situation plays out—it’s tough to tell who has the upper hand. But Barger seems to think it’s JetBlue: “The message I would give is that especially in a recession, you shouldn’t take air service for granted.”