While the April figure was no cause for celebration, it marked the first time since December that year-to-year comparisons did not fall past 20%, airport Commissioner Charles Lombardo said.
The 10.4% decrease is also the lowest since last June, when the number of passengers fell 9.51% from 2007.
“The economy in general is turning around, and I think that bodes well for the passenger traffic numbers,” Lombardo said. “It seems to have bottomed out, but we’re not back to where we were. I don’t anticipate that happening for quite a while.”
Though passenger numbers at key major carriers remain below last year’s figures, the latest tallies in some cases show a turnaround, officials said. Ridership at American Airlines jumped 14.48%, JetBlue experienced a 5.41% boost, and SkyWest saw a 26.98% increase compared with the same period last year. The April figures, which this year included Easter Sunday, are significantly better than March figures, where American Airlines fell nearly 22.8% and JetBlue dropped 9.43% in the comparison, the report found.
“April is the least decline we’ve seen in a while,” Lombardo said. “And I’ll tell you it’s a relief to see the numbers not dropping any more than they already have.”
The number of commercial airline passengers at Bob Hope Airport had fallen every month since April 2008, with double-digit drops recorded every month since July.
Sharp declines in March mirrored those seen in January and February, when passenger counts decreased by 20.57% and 21.62%, respectively, compared with 2008.
Still, airport officials and aviation analysts were cautious about declaring a full turnaround.
Southwest Airlines, which makes up about two-thirds of Bob Hope’s operations, was down 11.17%. Year-to-date figures are down 17.33%, from 1.2 million passengers in 2008 to 985,330 in 2009, the report states.
In its 16-year outlook for 2009-25, the Federal Aviation Administration predicted U.S. aircraft operations this year would drop 5.7% from 2008 levels.
Beginning in 2010, the agency expects operations to grow at an average annual rate of 1.5% for the remainder of the forecast period, the report stated.
The 555-acre airport serves about 5 million passengers annually and houses about 45 private jets.
Parking revenue edged up slightly over the past few months, and passenger surveys continue to be positive, said airport spokesman Victor Gill.
Parking revenue that in January and February had hovered near $1.6 million jumped to $1.75 million in March and remained at $1.8 in April and May, Gill said.
The airport authority Monday approved a $76.3-million budget for 2010, down $12.6 million from 2009.
“We are starting with a conservative budget,” Gill said. “Given the numbers we continue to see, that appears to be a good strategy going into the new fiscal year.”