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Southwest takes drastic measures

Officials hope sales like the airline’s recent promotion bring a boost to Bob Hope Airport.

July 11, 2009|By Christopher Cadelago

BURBANK — As deflated travel budgets continue to discourage passengers at Bob Hope Airport, Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority officials are hoping that an uptick in fare promotions drives more customers to the gates.

Southwest Airlines, which accounts for two-thirds of Bob Hope’s operations, this week introduced what it described as one of the biggest fare sales in the company’s history.

The 48-hour sale — one-way trips of up to 400 miles for $30; 400 to 750 miles for $60 and more than 750 miles for $90 — lasted through Wednesday for travel between Sept. 9 and Nov. 18.

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The sale comes less than two weeks after several major carriers jacked up prices. American Airlines, United Airlines and JetBlue Airways this week matched the time-sensitive promotions and discounted fares as a way to keep pace and fill seats in what is one of the slowest travel periods beginning Labor Day and lasting up to the holidays.

“An empty seat doesn’t make the airline any money,” airport Commissioner Charles Lombardo said. “Absolutely this will help, especially with leisure. It gets people to say, ‘Hey, we’ll go visit Grandma,’ when otherwise they may have stayed home.”

Rick Seaney, chief executive of FareCompare.com, characterized the promotion as one of the most unusual systemwide airfare sales he has tracked in the last five years.

“This sale kicks off the historically slow fall air travel season a bit earlier than usual — even after recent announcements of more seat cutbacks by several airlines,” he wrote in a statement. The sale is “one indication that while airline ticket prices have stabilized recently from their free-fall, airlines are by no means out of the woods as oil prices remain volatile and demand precarious.”

Nine leading carriers reported their June traffic as being down 6.7%, even after reducing their flying capacity by 6.9%.

Southwest Airlines on Tuesday announced that the company flew 6.7 billion revenue passenger miles in June, a 2.1% drop from the 6.9 billion flown the same period last year. The number of passengers last month was 7.7 million, a 6.1% drop from the 8.1 million passengers recorded in June 2008.

“People just frankly have been traveling less,” said Marilee McInnis, a spokeswoman for Southwest Airlines. “And it’s being felt at every level.”

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