As Long Beach Airport has added flights and passengers, airport managers and the city prosecutor recently announced separate actions aimed at curbing an increase in late-night jet noise violations.
Their actions could add new balance to an old fine structure that imposed heavy fines on long-time noise ordinance violator Jet Blue. Other airlines got off with mere warnings or fines of just a couple hundred dollars when they violated the city's airplane noise ordinance.
Long Beach Airport’s administrative fines, issued by airport managers, start at simple warnings for the first two offenses, then rise to $100 and $300 for third and subsequent violations.
“Those fines date to 1995, but they’re not fair any longer,” said airport spokeswoman Stephanie Montuya-Moritsky. “With the increase in violations, it’s become abundantly clear that there needs to be more strict penalties.”
The airport has proposed the fines be increased to $2,500, $5,000 and $10,000 for the first three violations. Repeated violators could lose one of the airport’s 50 daily fight slots to another carrier, Montuya-Moritsky said. The proposal would first go to public meetings for comment, and would have to be approved by the City Council before taking effect sometime early next year, she said.
The proposal would bring the airport's anemic fines closer to those imposed automatically on violating Jet Blue flights by the City Prosecutor's office. The company’s late-landing jets will cost the airline $6,000 per incident, under a new agreement announced last week by City Prosecutor Doug Haubert. The previous fine was $3,000 for the first six violations each quarter, rising to $6,000 after additional violations, Haubert said.
The higher Jet Blue fines stem from a 2003 consent decree that settled the city's criminal complaint. The agreement gets renegotiated each year, and calls for the airline to be fined automatically, in lieu of criminal prosecution, for every flight that takes off or lands after the city’s curfew. The fines are paid to a local nonprofit foundation that supports Long Beach city libraries.
The company did not respond to requests for comment on the new fine structure.
These changes come against a backdrop of swiftly increasing business for Long Beach Airport.
In late 2015, Long Beach Airport increased its flight operations from 41 daily flights by passenger and cargo airlines to 50. Passenger counts have gone up apace, to 1.8 million passengers in first six months of this year. That is a 47 percent increase in passengers over the same period last year.
But at the same time, the number of flights operating after the 10 p.m. curfew has also increased. There were 133 curfew-busting flights in the first six months of 2017, versus only 89 in 2015.