jetBlue Airways (B6, New York JFK) returned 10 out of 34 slot pairs at Long Beach after it had failed to meet the new threshold for utilisation imposed by the local authorities, the Long Beach Post has reported.

City Manager Pat West said the change is effective immediately. The slots will be made available to other carriers, including Hawaiian Airlines (HA, Honolulu), Delta Air Lines (DL, Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson), and Southwest Airlines (WN, Dallas Love Field).

"We expect very strong demand from airlines currently operating at Long Beach Airport for each of the 10 flight slots that were made available today," West said.

The city will allocate the new slots one-by-one to Hawaiian Airlines, then to Delta and Southwest. In the second round, Southwest will get priority ahead of Delta and Hawaiian, and so on.

jetBlue was forced to return the slots as it fell short of the new requirements introduced by the city on January 1, 2019. The new rules stipulate that each slot has to be at least 85%-utilised throughout the year, with at least 60% usage every month and 75% every quarter.

According to the ch-aviation capacity module, jetBlue is the largest operator in Long Beach with 152 weekly departures and a 52.8% market share by capacity. However, the airline's relation with the Californian airport has been rocky since 2017, when the local authorities rejected jetBlue's request to build an international terminal.

The carrier previously called the new slot utilisation rules "discriminatory".

Besides jetBlue, Southwest, Delta, and Hawaiian, American Airlines also serves Long Beach Airport.