JetBlue customers take fastlane as SoCal averts ‘Carmageddon’

San Pedro News Pilot | MCT

A ten-mile portion of the 405 freeway in Los Angeles was closed while work continued on the demolition of the Mulholland Bridge on Saturday, July 16, 2011.

Vineet Gupta, Staff Writer

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While the freeway closure dubbed “Carmageddon” highlighted Southern California’s precarious car culture last weekend, JetBlue stood out for its pluckiness and civic mindedness by offering $4 flights between Long Beach and Burbank Saturday — a day that was expected to be the worst of the traffic blocked weekend.

The deal offered a $4 trip each way, with a $5 option for an “Even More Space” seat.

JetBlue’s Regional Marketing Manager, Jace Hieda, said that the trip between Long Beach and Burbank was the “shortest ever scheduled flight” in Jetblue history, with flights lasting about 19 minutes.

For some passengers on board, the short flight was a memorable one.

“I think the best part was the flight itself,” said Rupen Dajee, 19, a student at UCLA who snapped up a ticket soon after it went on sale, “the flight controllers actually brought a special route for us, so we could see all the sights.

“So they flew us around all the harbours, through the hills on both sides of the 405 so we could see the emptiness as they closed [down] around the Mullholland bridge… so we got to see all the good stuff and they flew really low too,” he said.

While a few passengers may have used the flights to commute, the promotion mostly appears to have drawn people, like Dajee, looking for a day adventure.

A father waiting at the arrival gate from Burbank said he was there to pick up his kids. They were coming back from visiting their grandma.

The 40-year-old man, who identified himself as Mike and said he is a special effects technician, explained the flight was mostly a treat for the kids.

“We live in Glendale-Burbank,” he said. “They’re just jumping down here.

“It was just a little treat for them for the summer. We promised them a short flight and here it is. That’s all it is.”

Hieda also said that most passengers were day adventurers looking for a new experience or eager to explore a new city.

“A lot of what I’ve heard is, people are just excited to do something different for the day. We’ve had people who have never flown on a plane before,” Hieda said.

“[It’s] people just getting out there and doing something for the day.”

In what might be a sign of the times, Hieda said the promotion was pushed almost entirely through social media like Facebook and Twitter and through media blogs, which they reached through a PR newswire release. The tickets sold out in three hours.

Tickets sold out so fast that Jetblue’s website was not even able to update in time to announce the flights on its deals page.

Although Jetblue’s marketing department put up an advertising banner later in the day, Hieda said the tickets had already sold out by then.

“If someone went to, they wouldn’t have known,” he said about the offer.

Judging from the success of this weekend, however, residents of Los Angeles may perhaps enter next summer with some confidence in either case.

The bridge demolition and freeway widening project was done ahead of schedule and the mother of all traffic jams never materialized thanks to the extraordinary civic awareness campaign that kept drivers off the road.

“Preventing Carmageddon was the whole point of Carmageddon,” said Dajee. Indeed, in the Hollywood land of Southern California, people can always look forward to a sequel.

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