By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - For some Los Angeles-area travelers looking to beat the gridlock during an upcoming weekend freeway closure widely dubbed "Carmageddon," the best alternative route may be thousands of feet above the city.
JetBlue Airways on Wednesday offered special $4 nonstop flights between Long Beach Airport and Bob Hope Airport in suburban Burbank for Saturday, the first day of a long-planned and much-feared shutdown of the 405 Freeway for two days of construction.
The $4 one-way tickets include taxes and fees, and for $1 more, travelers can buy a bit of first-class treatment, including extra leg room and early boarding privileges.
"We're helping Angelenos get over the gridlock altogether and enjoy the valley or the beach ... without having to brave the traffic jams to get there," JetBlue marketing manager Mark Rogers said in a statement introducing the "Carmageddon" special.
The special offer was promoted with the slogan: "405 Freeway Closure? We're So Over It!"
The offer was obviously popular. Tickets for all four flights -- about 600 seats in all -- sold out in just two hours, airline spokeswoman Jenny Dervin told Reuters.
The airline known for introducing leather seats and satellite TV to U.S. bargain-fare service also offered a 40.5 percent discount on the airfare portion of its JetBlue Getaways vacation to Las Vegas from either Burbank or Long Beach.
As part of its "Over-the-405" special, JetBlue scheduled two one-way, nonstop flights from Burbank to Long Beach -- one in the early afternoon and one in the evening -- and two more in the other direction, from Long Beach to Burbank.
Passengers making a round-trip outing for the day from Burbank to Long Beach and back would have six hours on the ground. Those flying in the other direction would get a four-hour "layover."
Dervin said the promotion was not intended to introduce a new regular Burbank-Long Beach route but "to meet the short-term needs of our customers in Southern California."
Because the airline's Airbus 320 jetliners will be flying below the typical cruising altitude of 28,000 feet, the company needed the cooperation of the Federal Aviation Administration and air traffic controllers "to make these flights a reality," she said.
Authorities are warning Los Angeles motorists of area-wide traffic tie-ups of epic proportions during the 53-hour shutdown of the 405 to allow crews to demolish a bridge as part of a $1 billion freeway widening project.
(Editing by Tim Gaynor)