An aviation consultant has begun preliminary work on a study to examine the feasibility of adding a Federal Inspection Services (FIS) facility to provide United States Customs and Border Protection clearance that would permit international flights at Long Beach Airport, airport officials confirmed with the Business Journal.


After the city council approved at its meeting on January 19 to select Texas-based Jacobs Engineering Group to perform the study for about $350,000, a contract agreement was officially signed and a notice to proceed was issued earlier this month after some negotiation, stated Stephanie Montuya-Morisky, a spokesperson for the airport, in an e-mail.


“Jacobs has started preliminary work,” she said. “However, it must be understood that it is still very early in the study.”


The study comes nearly a year after the airport’s primary air carrier, JetBlue Airways, which holds 35 daily flight slots, formally requested that the airport consider offering international flights, a process that would require approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).


Despite opposition from airport-adjacent residents who have fought airport improvements and argue that adding international flights would open legal challenges to the city’s noise ordinance, the city council, in a 6-3 vote, agreed to move forward with a study.


While the airport commissioned a study in 2013 by New York-based Frasca & Associates, LLC to examine the potential for an FIS facility, Airport Director Bryant Francis, who is leaving at the end of the month to lead Oakland International Airport, stated that the prior study focused only on financial feasibility, and a more comprehensive study was needed for the city council to make an informed decision on the matter in the future.


Jacobs Engineering, which is subcontracting with Frasca & Associates as well as other firms, was selected to perform the study after the airport received three responses to a request for qualifications (RFQ) issued last September. Airport staff expects the study to be completed in July, after which findings will be presented to the city council.


Two community meetings on the study are tentatively scheduled for March 30 and April 20, Montuya-Morisky said. While the first meeting will likely be held at the Long Beach Gas & Oil Department’s facility at 2400 E. Spring St., the airport is currently looking for adequate space to hold the second meeting, she said.


Airport staff outlined the scope of work and minimum requirements for the analysis to be performed by the consultant and its subcontracted firms in two separate phases, according to Montuya-Morisky.


Phase 1 will include a market analysis and forecast of demand for domestic and international flights; determining airport scope and capacity by evaluating the physical layout of the airport (airfield, runways, facilities, etc.); and evaluating financial feasibility, including estimating the cost of planning, design and construction of an FIS facility.


Phase 2 will include: assessing the economic impact to the local and regional economy; assessing environmental impacts and providing guidance for the future; and identifying potential security threats associated with an FIS.


JetBlue Airways representatives have stated that adding international flights at Long Beach Airport would enable the airline to become more profitable at its West Coast hub by offering flights to popular leisure and business destinations south of the border.