A brass band welcomes passengers boarding the first Southwest Airlines flight from Long Beach to New Orleans on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. Photo courtesy of Long Beach Airport.

A New Orleans brass band greeted passengers as they boarded Southwest’s inaugural flight to the Big Easy out of Long Beach Airport Sunday afternoon.

The airline will operate the flight through at least July 10, making for easier travel for Long Beachers and residents in nearby cities who plan on celebrating Mardi Gras next month.

The nonstop service departs Long Beach at 12:30 p.m. every Sunday, arriving in NOLA at 6 p.m. The return flight, also on Sundays, departs New Orleans at 4:55 p.m. and arrives at LGB at 7:15 p.m.

The route is one of several new destinations Southwest will begin servicing this year. On Thursday, the carrier began daily service to Salt Lake City.

The company will begin its first nonstop service to the East Coast out of Long Beach with weekly flights to Orlando on July 11.

Southwest is Long Beach’s largest carrier, holding 75% of the airfield’s 53 daily flight slots. In November, the airline was awarded two more slots bringing its total to 40.

Routes for several of the company’s flight slots have not yet been announced.

In December, city officials announced it would add five daily flights, bringing the total number of allowable fights to 48. The slots have not been allocated to airlines, but Southwest is likely to receive several.

The waitlist for slots includes Breeze Airways, which recently relinquished its only daily flight, Swoop Airlines, which declined an offered slot, and American Airlines, which recently informed airport staff it would cease operations out of Long Beach.

American currently holds three daily flight slots, which also will be awarded to the remaining carriers, which now consist of only Southwest, Delta and Hawaiian airlines.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information about the service’s duration.

Brandon Richardson is a reporter and photojournalist for the Long Beach Business Journal.