JetBlue continues push for international facilities at Long Beach

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JetBlue Airways continues to push for the addition of an international arrivals facility at Long Beach airport, as it focuses its growth in Latin America.

Talks with the city of Long Beach, which operates the airport, are in “very preliminary” stages, says Robin Hayes, president of JetBlue, at the Phoenix International Aviation Symposium on 4 April. He had spent the previous day in Long Beach meeting with the airport.

Funding is the main issue facing the project, according to the airport.

While Hayes did not comment on whether JetBlue would be willing to pay for an expansion in Long Beach, the carrier has paid for similar projects elsewhere. It is providing the majority of funds for the roughly $200 million terminal 5 international project at New York JFK International airport.

The JFK project will add international arrivals capabilities and three new gates to JetBlue’s terminal 5 when completed later in 2014.

Restrictions on air service between any two airports in Mexico and the USA are partially behind JetBlue’s push for international capabilities at Long Beach.

Each country is limited to appointing just two carriers per route except to certain leisure destinations, including Cancun, Guadalajara and San Jose del Cabo, in Mexico where they can appoint three airlines, according to a bilateral treaty that was ratified in 2005.

Air service between Los Angeles and Mexico is “artificially constrained” due to these limitations, says Hayes.

Innovata schedules show that the maximum number of US carriers allowed already operate on most routes from Los Angeles to Mexico, including those to Cancun, Mexico City and San Jose del Cabo.

JetBlue hopes to take advantage of these constraints and boost air service from the region with an arrivals facility at Long Beach, says Hayes.

“Flying south is a tremendous opportunity for JetBlue and the [Long Beach] community,” he says.

JetBlue carries more than 80% of the passengers from Long Beach, which is the New York-based carrier’s main base in the Los Angeles area.

The majority of JetBlue’s planned 5% to 7% annual capacity growth will be in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2014. The majority of this will be from its main gateway to the region at Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International airport.

The airline is also adding 12 new daily flights from Ronald Reagan Washington National airport, where it acquired slots from American Airlines following the mainline carrier’s divestiture of 44 pairs earlier in 2014.