Southwest Airlines continues to solidify its dominance at Long Beach Airport, with the carrier being awarded another three flight slots at the noise-controlled airfield, according to a city memo released Monday.
The news come four months after American Airlines informed city staff it would leave Long Beach, relinquishing its three daily flight slots.
While Long Beach alerted all of the airlines on the airport’s waitlist of the newly available flight slots, the first three on the list—Canada-based Swoop, startup Breeze Airways and Hawaiian Airlines—all passed on the opportunity. Southwest was next on the list and requested all three slots.
Delta Air Lines was last on the list and did not request additional slots. In fact, Delta informed city staff on May 2 that it would relinquish two of its seven daily flight slots.
As it stands, with the additions, Southwest holds 48—or 83%—of the airport’s 58 daily flight slots.
“We are pleased that Southwest Airlines continues to show strong interest in growing their presence at Long Beach Airport,” Director Cynthia Guidry told the Business Journal in an email Monday. “Our three carriers now offer nonstop service to 24 destinations, which is more nonstop service than at any other time in the history of our airport.”
Southwest, for its part, declined to specify how it would use the new slots.
“We will increase our flying accordingly to best utilize these slots,” a spokesperson said in an email to the Business Journal Monday night. “More details will be shared at a later time.”
Other than the two unallocated slots, the remaining daily flights are held by Hawaiian (2) and UPS (1).
Delta said in a statement that it hopes to reclaim flight slots in the future.
“Delta voluntarily yielded back two of seven daily flight slot pairs at Long Beach given continued challenges amongst our regional partners from a staffing resources standpoint,” the airline said. “We continue to monitor conditions closely and hope to restore our full slate at Long Beach when able. In the meantime, Delta customers can choose from service at LGB and at all major LA Basin airports including LAX, BUR, ONT and SNA.”
Guidry, for her part, remained confident in the airport’s ongoing relationship with Delta.
“We greatly appreciate Delta Air Lines’ continued partnership in serving passengers from our convenient, easygoing airport,” Guidry said. “Delta has expressed their desire to remain on the flight slot waiting list, as they plan for an ongoing presence here in Long Beach.”
The waiting list for flight slots, in order, is now: Delta, Swoop, Breeze, Hawaiian and Southwest. Based on recent allocation decisions, it’s likely Southwest will be awarded the two outstanding slots.
Monday’s news comes just over two weeks after Southwest executives visited Long Beach for the unveiling of the carrier’s newest aircraft, Imua One. Following the ceremony, CEO Bob Jordan and COO Andrew Watterson hosted a luncheon with local businesses, during which they apologized for recent issues and pledged that improvements were being made.
The news also comes days after pilots at Southwest Airlines voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike, a move that is unlikely to lead to a walkout in the near future but is designed to put more pressure on the airline during contract negotiations.
Southwest, for its part, said the strike vote has no effect on its operations.
“We are staffed and prepared to welcome travelers for their summer travel plans,” the airline said in a statement.
In Long Beach, Southwest has announced nonstop service to 10 new destinations over the past year, including Nashville, New Orleans, Salt Lake City, Orlando, Kansas City, Colorado Springs, El Paso, Albuquerque, Boise and Portland.
The city’s leading carrier has been instrumental in the airport’s years-long recovery from the pandemic. In March, passenger volumes rose above pre-pandemic levels for the first time since the coronavirus first appeared in early 2020.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a comment from Delta Air Lines.