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Passenger figures hit low

Bob Hope Airport numbers fall 14% in 2009 to lowest point in 8 years.

February 03, 2010|By Christopher Cadelago

BOB HOPE AIRPORT — The number of passengers at Bob Hope Airport in 2009 fell to its lowest point in eight years, officials reported Monday.

Hurt by deflated corporate budgets and a disappointing holiday travel season, the number of passengers handled by Bob Hope Airport fell 14%, from 5.3 million in 2008 to 4.6 million in 2009, according to a report Monday to the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority.

The volume of passengers peaked at more than 5.9 million in 2007.

“We still have a ways to go before we’re back to normal,” Glendale Commissioner Frank Quintero said. “I don’t think business or leisure travel is going to spike any time soon.”

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The decline mirrors a trend at airports across the region. Los Angeles International Airport reported a 5.5% drop-off and Ontario International Airport’s annual passenger count was down 21.6%, according to figures released by Los Angeles World Airports.

In Burbank, the drop in passengers comes as airport executives prepare for a $120-million regional transportation center to link the airport with passenger trains, shuttles, buses and taxicabs. A proposed Metrolink-Amtrak train station is slated for completion in 2012.

Declines in revenue prompted executives to scale back some capital improvements and shelve others.

Fewer passengers have meant reduced revenue for the airport, which has already had to cut back on millions of dollars’ worth of planned improvements.

Executive Director Dan Feger said the airport authority expects to propose a conservative budget going forward, particularly as fuel prices remain uncertain and airlines continue to pull back to match reduced customer demand.

“I have every reason to expect it will remain flat for quite a while,” Feger said.

Perhaps the most significant setback comes by way of sluggish passenger traffic reported by Southwest Airlines, which provides service to the Bay Area, Sacramento, Las Vegas and Phoenix and accounts for about two-thirds of Bob Hope Airport’s operations.

Southwest Airlines reported 437,434 fewer passengers in 2009 compared with the year prior, a decline of 12.6%. The reduced demand has led to about 55 daily flights, down from a high of about 62 flights per day, said John Hatanaka, senior deputy executive director for the airport.

“Demand is a function of economic conditions,” he said. “There’s indications that the economy is starting to strengthen.”

Executives said they were encouraged by the relative leveling off of December passenger figures from 2008 and 2009.

“It’s like a Nike Swoosh,” Hatanaka said. “We’re just past that bottom portion. I look at it as a hopeful sign.”


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