A decision by the city of Long Beach to open its airport to new carriers and more flights has paid off with a nearly 50% increase in passenger volume over the last six months.
During the first half of the year, Long Beach Airport served nearly 1.3 million passengers, a 46.5% jump from the same period in 2016, according to the city of Long Beach.
By comparison, Los Angeles International Airport served nearly 41 million passengers in the first six months of the year, a 5% increase over the same period last year.
Long Beach Airport's growth is attributed mostly to the city's decision last year to add nine new daily departures and arrivals, bringing to 50 the total daily flights allotted to large carriers at the 1,166-acre facility.
The new slots opened the door for Southwest Airlines, the nation's largest domestic carrier, to serve Long Beach for the first time and compete head-to-head with rival JetBlue Airways.
The increase has already boosted revenue from parking and concession operators at the airport, airport spokeswoman Stephanie Montuya-Morisky said. "It's better overall financially," she said, adding that the city's financial report wouldn't be released for several months.
The decision to add the nine slots riled some Long Beach residents worried that the extra flights would generate more jet noise. But a city study found that the airport could add the nine daily flights without violating an airport noise limit that sets a threshold tied to the airline noise generated in 1989-90.
Southwest Airlines received four daily slots, with JetBlue getting three more slots and Delta Air Lines getting two.
Southwest Airlines began serving Long Beach Airport in June of last year, handling 10,231 passengers in that first month. In June of this year, Southwest served 17,911 travelers, a 75% increase, according to city data.
"We've worked week by week to add additional flights utilizing unused slots that make available our low fares and 'bags fly free' to more people going more places," Southwest Airlines spokesman Dan Landson said. Long Beach became the 10th California airport served by Southwest Airlines.
JetBlue, the biggest carrier at Long Beach Airport, also has experienced higher passenger volume, serving 124,065 people in June, up 23% from the 101,270 passengers handled a year earlier.