Fresno-Long Beach flight in the works?: ExpressJet adds two daily departures to the SoCal airport in new schedule.

Oct. 6--ExpressJet could be starting daily flights to Long Beach next month, increasing options for central San Joaquin Valley residents seeking quick service to Southern California. The airline has uploaded a new schedule on an industry-run...


Oct. 6--ExpressJet could be starting daily flights to Long Beach next month, increasing options for central San Joaquin Valley residents seeking quick service to Southern California.

The airline has uploaded a new schedule on an industry-run computer program available to customers of Fresno Yosemite International Airport. It calls for two daily flights to Long Beach starting Nov. 11: at 8:50 a.m. and 3:50 p.m. In addition, the carrier will reduce the number of daily flights to Ontario from two to one.

ExpressJet, which operates 50-seat jets, has been popular since starting service from Fresno last spring. The upstart carrier flies to Ontario and San Diego from Fresno, and apparently is expanding to Long Beach after the City Council there approved giving terminal slots to the Texas-based airline.

In August, 62% of the seats were full on the two routes from Fresno, continuing a steady increase in the past several months.

ExpressJet officials couldn't be reached Friday, and city officials in Fresno said all they know is that the carrier is altering flight schedules.

Airport spokeswoman Vikkie Calderon said officials have not received any official notice from ExpressJet.

Travel experts say Long Beach would be popular with business people who want to avoid the congestion of Los Angeles International Airport, and is a good alternative to John Wayne International Airport in Orange County.

It also is good for cruise ship passengers boarding Carnival Cruise Lines at Long Beach, said Keith Johnson of Bulldog Travel. "LAX is a bottleneck."

Fares haven't been released, but Johnson said a two-week advance notice ticket is likely to be $59 one way, which is the price the company charges on its other routes in California.

Aviation consultant Michael Boyd described Fresno to Long Beach as a "slam-dunk" route. "It avoids L.A.," he said. "If you want to go to L.A., the last place you want to go is to LAX."

Boyd said ExpressJet has a reputation for good service. "One of their strengths is that they really do a good job. They are clean, on time and treat people like people," he said.

The carrier is only six months old and reported a loss of $26.4 million last quarter. Still, airline executives said they are pleased with the company's progress.

Johnson of Bulldog Travel said passengers often fly from Fresno to Ontario, rent a car and drive to Palm Springs. And new ExpressJet service from Bakersfield to Sacramento and then to Spokane, Wash., is popular. "People are using that all the time," he said.

The reporter can be reached at snax@fresnobee.com or (559) 441-6495.

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