Southwest Airlines makes bid to serve Long Beach Airport

Southwest Airlines, the nation's most popular domestic carrier, has submitted an application to begin daily service out of Long Beach Airport starting later this year.

If the application is approved by the city of Long Beach and the Federal Aviation Administration, the Dallas carrier would join only JetBlue, American and Delta Air Lines in serving one of the smallest commercial airports in Southern California.

Southwest officials said they have applied to operate nine daily flights but did not disclose the destinations the carrier plans to serve. Still, Southwest officials noted that air travel demand in California is strong for service between Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area.

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The slots became available when noise studies confirmed that Long Beach Airport could add nine daily flights without violating the city's noise ordinance.

The airport served about 2.5 million passengers in 2015, a 10% drop from 2014. By comparison, Los Angeles International Airport served nearly 75 million passengers last year, a 6% increase from 2014.

Gary Kelly, Southwest's chairman, president and chief executive, announced the carrier's application to serve Long Beach at a gathering of Southwest employees in Las Vegas on Wednesday. He noted that Southwest already serves four other airports in the region: LAX, Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, John Wayne Airport near Santa Ana and Ontario International Airport.

"No one can offer California what we do on a daily basis, especially with the attractive addition of our low-fare service at Long Beach," he told the workers.

JetBlue, Delta and American Airlines also submitted applications to add a total of nine new flights, but Long Beach officials said Southwest is likely to get priority consideration because the carrier doesn't already serve the airport.

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow me on Twitter at @hugomartin.

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