LONG BEACH, Calif. — For nearly a century, the Long Beach Airport has served its community with 2023 lined up to remind passengers of its rich tradition and of new things to come.
Over the years, airport growth has been capped by its 1989 noise ordinance, but airlines have strategically changed flight times to fall between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. The change has allowed the airport to expand service in certain years, with more additions planned for 2023.
While American Airlines announced plans to shut down three daily flights to Phoenix by the end of February, those slots will be filled in the coming months through an already established waiting list. As the airport replaces those slots, it’s looking to add five more flights for a total of 58.
About two-thirds of revenue come from passengers, with additional income earned through rental properties the airport leases out to tenants. That money came in handy during the pandemic revenue losses and is used along with all other income to operate the airport and fund improvements.
“We’ve made a lot of great strides, but we’re still on the road to recovery to those pre-pandemic levels,” said Long Beach Airport spokesperson Kate Kuykendall.
Long Beach Airport already offers 19 nonstop flights, adding one to the tally late in 2022 with a flight to New Orleans.
Long Beach is sandwiched between a series of larger airports in Santa Ana, Ontario and Los Angeles. But with air travel in such high demand, Long Beach Airport does not have to subsidize flights to draw passengers or airlines. Still, the recovery from the pandemic slump has been slow. Kuykendall said the airport processed just under 3.2 million passengers in 2022 and projects a 3.6 million in 2023.
This year is about continuing to give those customers a better experience and less about the pro-growth models of other airports. Long Beach Airport doesn’t have the flexibility for large amounts of cargo business or the addition of extra terminals.
One addition to make life easier includes the Tuesday rollout of a new express verification service called CLEAR. Passengers verify their identity with fingerprints or their eyes instead of a passport with registration for the service at the airport. That allows customers to bypass the sometimes lengthy wait in security. Once verified through the system, a “CLEAR ambassador” escorts the passenger to the security checkpoint.
“We are pleased to welcome CLEAR at Long Beach Airport and give travelers another convenient option for a streamlined security screening process,” said Long Beach Mayor Rex Richardson in a news release.
Long Beach Airport is the ninth in California to adopt CLEAR and 49th nationally. Customers pay about $16 a month, with officials expecting the program to generate about $1.2 million in economic activity and 23 new jobs.
The service goes along with other changes to the building to make travel easier and more comfortable.
About 10 years ago, a concourse was completed for passengers to wait in before air travel and concessions to keep them occupied. The airport is also sinking money into things that distinguish it as unique, like its historic terminal, which the city has designated as a historic landmark. That rehab project is expected to be completed in 2024.
Aviation history in the city began with the beach, where balloons had a soft place to land even before the airport was built. Starting in 1910, early biplanes covered in fabric made landings before more advanced wooden and metal craft appeared with a boom in aviation technology that began in 1918.
The airport will celebrate that history with its 100th birthday on Nov. 26, a reminder that it is the oldest municipal airport in California.
“We have a long and rich history of aviation here, and we’re looking forward to celebrating that with the community,” she said.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story attributed the 23 new jobs to the wrong employer. The error has been corrected. (Jan. 26, 2023)