JetBlue Airways withdrew its appeal of 16 curfew violations that occurred after 11 p.m. at the Long Beach Airport (LGB) in early 2017. The withdrawal came just days before its hearing before the Long Beach City Council, which had been scheduled for June 26.
“JetBlue’s decision to withdraw its appeal to the city council comes after several months of discussion between the city and JetBlue,” LGB Director Jess Romo said in an e-mail to the Business Journal. “The agreement resolves a somewhat longstanding dispute in a manner that is mutually beneficial to the city and JetBlue, and helps to clarify the process used by the city to determine whether or not an air carrier flight is exempt from the existing curfew regulations.”
Under the LGB noise ordinance, arriving and departing flights are not permitted between the hours of 10 p.m. and 8 a.m., with few exceptions. The basis of JetBlue’s appeal was that these 16 violations only occurred due to “explicit air traffic control (ATC) direction” and therefore were out of the company’s control and eligible for exemptions. The curfew violations from the second quarter of 2017 totaled $96,000, which JetBlue has agreed to pay, according to an agreement signed by the company’s senior vice president of government affairs, Robert Land, and Long Beach City Attorney Charles Parkin on June 21.
The agreement lays out several terms and conditions:
• JetBlue will pay all outstanding fines, totaling $288,000, within 30 days of the effective date of the agreement.
• JetBlue will make efforts to immediately and significantly reduce late-night operations at LGB.
• JetBlue will obtain letters from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration when operations are delayed by explicit direction of ATCs. Such documentation will allow these curfew violations to be exempt from fines. Flights delayed for maintenance or other non-ATC reasons are still subject to fines.
• The appeal withdrawal applies to all pending appeals, “including those being held in abeyance pursuant to the March 6, 2018, stay agreement between JetBlue and the city.”
• JetBlue reserves legal and regulatory rights to appeal future noise violations if the agreement stipulations are not honored.
• JetBlue reserves the legal and regulatory rights to challenge changes to the slot resolution related to the “use or lose” provisions that have been under consideration since August 2017.
JetBlue’s initial exemption request was made on July 7, 2017, and was subsequently denied by Romo on July 18. The company then requested clarification on Romo’s decision, which was provided on August 17. JetBlue’s first appeal was denied on October 16 following a hearing. In late October, JetBlue requested an administrative hearing before the city manager, which was held on December 21. A decision rendered by City Manager Pat West the same day upheld Romo’s exemption denial. JetBlue subsequently filed an appeal to the city council, and a hearing was scheduled for June 26. That hearing was canceled following the agreement and JetBlue’s withdrawal of its appeal.
“JetBlue ceasing its appeal and paying the fines owed pursuant to the terms agreed to by the city prosecutor is not related to any service plans at Long Beach,” Philip Stewart, manager of corporate communications for JetBlue, said in an e-mail to the Business Journal. “As announced this spring, refinements to our Long Beach flying later this year sets us up for success in greater Los Angeles with service to four airports, and returns us to service levels similar to two years ago.”