Airlines: Back Door to L.A.

Long Beach used to be a flyover city. Now airlines are fighting for the right to land

It wasn't long ago that Long Beach, Calif., was the place your luggage turned up when the airlines made a really big mistake. The working-class seaside city has been known as home to oil wells and refineries, the mothballed Queen Mary ocean liner and, until a few years ago, Howard Hughes' eight-engine flying monster, the Spruce Goose. Hardly anyone meant to fly there.

But that's changing fast. Long Beach is the unlikely scene of the airline industry's fiercest dogfight over passengers and landing slots. Upstart carrier JetBlue Airways cleverly identified Long Beach airport as a back door into the lucrative Southern...

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