In the face of new competition from Southwest Airlines planning to introduce service this year at Long Beach Airport, JetBlue Airways officials said the airline sees a “bright future” at the airport, particularly with prospects for international flights on the horizon.


“JetBlue is proud of our 15-year history of delivering low fares and award-winning customer service to Long Beach,” said Morgan Johnston, JetBlue spokesperson, in statement sent the Business Journal. “On behalf of our more than 700 locally based crewmembers, we look forward to a continued bright future at Long Beach Airport, including the potential of new, exciting international destinations.”


Early last month, the airport allocated four daily flight slots to Southwest, which is based in Houston. If the airline accepts the flight slots, Southwest could introduce service later this year to become the airport’s newest air carrier.


JetBlue has serviced Long Beach Airport, the airline’s West Coast hub, since 2001 and was allocated three additional flight slots while Delta Air Lines, which also currently serves the airport, was allocated two additional flight slots.


The airlines have up to 90 days from the point of notification to make flights available for sale and nearly six months to begin operating the new slots.


The nine additional flight slots were offered after a recent noise analysis declared that cumulative noise levels from aircraft have decreased at the airport. The airport is required under the city’s noise ordinance to offer additional flight slots to airlines if noise levels fall below the allowable noise budget.


According to the analysis, noise levels have reduced primarily because aircraft have become quieter. The additional slot allocation increases the airport’s total air carrier flight slots from 41 to 50.


As of February 26, Southwest officials had yet to announce destinations from Long Beach or when flights may become available, however, the Las Vegas Review-Journal has reported that the airline is considering Las Vegas as a potential destination.


Brad Hawkins, spokesperson for Southwest, which currently serves Los Angeles International (LAX), Burbank, Santa Ana and Ontario airports, told the Business Journal via e-mail that the airline looks forward to becoming the most convenient option for Southern California travelers.


“We carry more California travelers by air any day than any other carrier,” he said. “With our significant presence in both the Bay Area and the L.A. basin, we aim to offer relevant and attractive service at airports close to where people live and work. In the L.A. basin, Long Beach would represent our fifth service point. We aim to not just be the hometown carrier but also the most convenient carrier for Southern Californians.”


Meanwhile, JetBlue has requested that Long Beach Airport consider offering international flights. As a result, the Long Beach City Council agreed in January to move forward with a study on the feasibility of adding a federal inspection services (FIS) facility for U.S. Customs and Border Protection clearance. The city is expected to release the results of the independent study in July.


Johnston has stated that adding international flights for destinations south of the U.S. border would enable the airline to fully utilize all of its flight slots that now total 35. He said JetBlue is “excited to grow,” adding that plans for utilization of the airline’s additional three flight slots will be announced later this spring.