Long Beach Airport Director Bryant Francis, who was hired a little more than a year ago, has announced he is resigning to take a similar post at the Oakland International Airport. His last day will be March 30.
Francis, who became Long Beach Airport director last January, replacing the airport’s former director, Mario Rodriguez, who held the job for five years and left to lead the Indianapolis International Airport, will serve as director of aviation for Oakland International Airport, which is under the authority of the Port of Oakland.
“I’ve had an invaluable experience as director of Long Beach Airport,” Francis said in a statement released on February 25 by the City of Long Beach. “I appreciate the community and our business partners for recognizing the airport as an important city asset. I thank the mayor, city council, airport advisory commission and city manager for their collective guidance. The Long Beach Airport team is among the best I have had the pleasure of working with, and I am confident they will continue to deliver exceptional service to our customers.”
According to the press release, the city will conduct a nationwide search for a successor, considering both internal and external candidates who choose to apply. In the meantime, City Manager Pat West is expected to appoint an interim director to lead the airport until the selection process is complete.
In the press release, West commended Francis’ service to the airport and the city.
“I want to thank Bryant for his engaging and strategic leadership at Long Beach Airport,” West said. “He worked collaboratively with all stakeholders, including airport tenants, our commercial and general aviation partners, and the community.”
Francis’s departure comes as the airport and the city are grappling with the possibility of allowing U.S. Customs and Border Protection service at Long Beach Airport that would permit international flights.
In addition, the airport’s recent decision to increase the number of commercial daily flights has opened the door for Southwest Airlines, which was granted four flight slots, to begin servicing Long Beach as the airport’s newest air carrier.
During calendar year 2015, the airport experienced a decline in revenue due to a 10.6 percent drop in passenger traffic compared to 2014. Much of the decline was due to JetBlue not utilizing many of its allocated flights. Francis has stated, however, that passenger traffic is rebounding this year.
Additionally, just days prior to the announcement that Francis is leaving, the city council at its meeting on February 16 was scheduled to consider a “long-range master plan” for the airport. However, the item was withdrawn.
The master plan, according to a city staff report, would be arrived at through a “collaborative process with the community, airport stakeholders, the airport advisory commission and city officials.”
“Without an articulated long-range vision, the airport is subject to external pressures to pursue certain development objectives and opens itself up to suspicion and mistrust among certain airport stakeholders, including impacted communities,” the staff report states.
Curt Castagna, president and CEO of Aeroplex/Aerolease Group and president of the Long Beach Airport Association (LBAA), which represents businesses at the airport, told the Business Journal via e-mail that the interim and future new airport director should “be encouraged by city leadership to continue to engage businesses, airlines and community groups, so that the airport can maximize its economic development and revenue potential within established policy.”
“On behalf of the Long Beach Airport Association, we are grateful for the efforts Bryant Francis made as the director at Long Beach Airport and we wish him well in his new position in Oakland, where we know he will use his talents to excel,” Castagna said. “The news of his departure, while unexpected and unfortunate, can provide the City of Long Beach the opportunity to refocus on the airport as an asset of the city and again seek an experienced commercial and general aviation airport leader. Given the programs that Bryant initiated and managed during his tenure, it is critical that the city not delay in continuing those programs.”