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Old 08-27-2005, 08:31 AM   #1  
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Default LGB Commuter Slots

Interesting reading here. Sounds like the terminal discussion is a dead issue. Who is Wilcox? Did he leave B6 on good terms? Who's backing his deal?

All airport, all the time
By Felix Sanchez
Staff writer
It seemed like old times at Long Beach's Airport Advisory Commission meeting last week when former JetBlue Airways executive Alex Wilcoxstrolled in.
Wilcox was a prominent fixture during debate over Long Beach Airport terminal improvements and JetBlue's compliance with the tough noise ordinance.
But as Wilcox stressed to commissioners, he was there in a non-JetBlue capacity.
Wilcox is head of a new business venture, Smooth Flight Holdings Co., that has applied for 22 of the airport's 25 commuter flight slots.
Wilcox is still on the board of directors of Kingfisher Airlines in India he left JetBlue to become chief operating officer but has since resigned. His new venture will make its home in either Long Beach or Nevada .
Wilcox's business plan is still in development, but he told commissioners that the firm will initially use 19-seat turbo-prop planes to begin commuter service to still-undetermined markets. But soon the company, which will come up with a flashy brand name to run under, will fly Q-400 Bombardier passenger jets with capacity for 78 passengers.
Some of the cities he will fly to will be duplicates of ones now served by commercial jetliners here, bringing competition to the airport. "There's a huge untapped demand for the (short haul) market in Long Beach' and other cities where consumers are often stressed by long waits at major airports for relatively short flights, he said, adding that Las Vegas is a possible destination.
The slot application is now complete. But city officials will wait until Sept. 2 before formally authorizing the proposal. The city has notified other airlines and the regional commuter industry to see if there is any other interest in the slots.
Once authorized, Wilcox has 90 days to before the "conditional' slots must be converted over to final, permanent slots that must be covered with bonds.
Then Smooth Flight will have six months to make them operational.
Wilcox had a final thing to say to commissioners. He no longer works for JetBlue, and he has no ulterior motive.
"There is no JetBlue conspiracy," he said. "This is not part of some plot."
At the same meeting, some commissioners got into a snit over a letter from Mayor Beverly O'Neill thanking them for their long, hard work on controversial terminal improvements the commission labored for 15 meetings over nearly 1 years on plans but also saying enough is enough.
In a July 15 letter, O'Neill told the commission it no longer needs to hold hearings onthe terminal issue, or make further recommendations to the council. "I'm a little disappointed," said commissioner Bob Luskin. "We put in a lot of time and effort."
Commissioner Bruce Alton said the board has unique perspective on the issue. But Alton also questioned why the commission, after all of its study, took what he said was "15 minutes' of debate before stamping its approval on the staff recommendation.
Alton voted against the bigger proposal.
If you have news for In Basket, drop a line to Press-Telegram business reporter Felix Sanchez. He can be reached by e-mail at [email protected], or by phone at (562) 499-1297. Old-schoolers can fax him at (562) 499-1269.
Why do people always find it necessary to point out that there is no jetblue conspiracy?
Old 08-27-2005, 08:55 AM   #2  
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I guess he's planning to start by wet-leasing from Commutair.

The airport fills up - Long Beach Press Telegram
The last of Long Beach's flight slots are sought by an eager entrepreneur.
For months, the grinding arguments against expansion of Long Beach Airport had a continuing theme: Build it and they will come (meaning that too much expansion will attract too many flights). Now that theme has done an aerobatic flip: Don't build it and they'll come anyway.
Alex Wilcox, an entrepreneur with some of the best background in the business, has put in a bid for all 22 of the airport's remaining slots. If he gets them, the airport will be at capacity, long before its physical facilities are made adequate to the task.
Wilcox proposes that his new company, Smooth Flight Holdings, Inc., contract with CommutAir of New York to provide short-haul flights for major airlines. CommutAir, which also does business as Champlain Enterprises Inc., operates about 200 daily flights with 500,000 passengers as a partner of Continental Airlines. According to the agreement with Wilcox, it would provide at least three Beechcraft 1900Ds for service in Long Beach.
It's not a done deal yet, though. Long Beach Airport officials have asked Wilcox for more information, and presumably will also take a hard look at his business plan.
Meantime, the airport has sent notice throughout the industry about the request for conditional allocation of the slots. If his application were to prove flawed, or if another airline were to apply immediately for a final allocation, he still could be edged out.
If the 19-passenger Beech 1900Ds do start flying out of Long Beach, what will the impact be? For the most part, mild. This little turboprop is much quieter than any of the jets, it lifts off quickly, and by the time it got to the end of Long Beach's 10,000-foot main runway it would be high enough to be barely noticeable. Even at capacity, 22 of those flights, especially if spaced out a bit, wouldn't add all that much to issues of baggage handling, terminal space or auto traffic. The hardest problem to solve might be finding counter space for the ticket agents.
Is it a surprise that all 22 slots got snapped up after lying around unwanted for years? Not really. The 41 commercial (long haul) and three commuter flights already operating out of Long Beach are at 87 percent capacity. That kind of news gets around in the troubled airline industry.
Assuming Wilcox's financial backing is strong, he is well prepped for his new venture. He is a former executive of JetBlue, the phenomenally successful airline that holds most of Long Beach's commercial slots, and until recently ran Kingfisher Airlines in Bangalore, India.
His arrival wouldn't end the dispute about the airport, however. Opponents of expansion (or rather overexpansion) will continue to worry that any appearance of excess capacity might tempt a hungry airline (they're all hungry) to try to crack the noise ordinance with a legal attack.
Nothing will ever make those worries go away entirely, although the city's determination to protect its noise ordinance is a far better way to resist a proliferation of flights than keeping a 64-year-old airport terminal in a state of cramped inadequacy.
Even before the old airport is improved, Wilcox's little planes are a welcome asset.
Old 08-27-2005, 07:12 PM   #3  
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Why not bargain with the city council to turn 22 slots into 11 A-320 slots?

It will have the same PAX traffic as as 22 78 seaters and will be twice as quiet with 50% less takeoffs and landings. Just a suggestion.

Last edited by 2 BLUE; 08-27-2005 at 07:20 PM.

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