In one bright spot, cargo traffic jumped 11.6%.
Bob Hope Airport had a strong month in January, despite severe winter storms and high winds in Phoenix that forced airlines to cancel flights, including Southwest Airlines, which accounts for two-thirds of the airport’s traffic. The airport’s passenger total increased 1.6% from January 2009.
The negative results for February were a reminder that the airport will continue to face challenges until the economy improves significantly, airport commissioners said.
“That’s sort of the cards that we’re dealt, and we have to continue to make sure that we can do everything that we can within our power, which is limited,” Commissioner Chris Holden said.
The airport authority has cut back its budget and anticipated lower passenger traffic and revenues than have been recorded so far, Gill said.
“Even though we are declining in our revenue, we are bringing in more revenue than we budgeted,” he said.
Passenger traffic has a large impact on airport revenues and could affect plans for capital improvement projects if they remain significantly low, commissioners said. But revenues have not yet fallen below projections, and some anticipated a turnaround in tandem with growing consumer confidence.
“I think that the passenger traffic should start picking up here now that we’re in the spring and summer travel season,” Commissioner Charles Lombardo said.
Traffic for Southwest was also down from a year ago, dropping 4.17% from February 2009, according to the report.
Changing airline strategies may have also contributed to declines at Bob Hope as operators like Alaska and U.S. Airways switched to smaller planes and reduced the number of passengers in an effort to improve efficiency, Gill said.
“The idea is that they come closer to matching the demand for service with the actual number of seats they are supplying,” he said.
Whether consumer demand for flights from Bob Hope increases and requires carriers to offer more flights from the airport is uncertain, commissioners said. But January’s increase in traffic combined with smaller declines in recent months than the airport saw a year ago may suggest less-volatile times to come, Gill said.
“I think what’s generally going on is a continuation of this flattening-out period,” he said.