Southwest cutting flights

April 24, 2010|By Christopher Cadelago

AIRPORT DISTRICT — Southwest Airlines, which accounts for two-thirds of passenger traffic at Bob Hope Airport, will phase out 12% of its weekly flights by September, airport officials said.

The carrier’s decision to trim 82 flights from its weekly schedule is expected to further decrease already-declining passenger numbers at the commuter hub. The drop from 712 to 630 weekly flights will mean a 6% reduction in the total weekly flights leaving the airport.

The Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority this week presented the proposal to airport commissioners.

“Southwest Airlines has been pretty steady for years,” Commissioner Don Brown said. “For them to take a hit like this is a concern, but it’s not a surprise.”


Southwest spokesman Chris Mainz said he would not discuss specifics until the carrier officially releases its schedule.

“What we’ve been doing for a couple of years now is optimizing our entire schedule,” Mainz said. “We’re doing that all over the system, and it’s really a matter of matching supply with demand and reallocating operations to airports where we’re doing well.”

The announcement came days before the carrier on Thursday reported $11 million in first-quarter profits. Passenger figures have a significant impact on the airport’s revenues and potentially affect planned capital improvement projects if they continue to slump, commissioners said. But revenues have yet to dip below projections.

Passenger traffic in February was down 4.9% from the previous year, dragging the year-to-date figure down to 1.6%, according to airport records. Last year’s passenger numbers fell to their lowest point in eight years, from 5.3 million in 2008 to 4.6 million in 2009. The volume of passengers peaked at more than 5.9 million in 2007.

Spiraling figures would likely continue until deflated corporate budgets and leisure travel rebound, Commissioner Charles Lombardo said.

Proposed reductions would affect all five markets served from Bob Hope Airport: Oakland, San Jose, Sacramento, Las Vegas and Phoenix. Airport officials said the carrier’s redundant flight schedule would allow travelers to make up for possible lost departures.

Airport spokesman Victor Gill said the proposal mirrors an industrywide trend of reducing the number of total seats and attempting to achieve greater capacity on ones that remain. That allows carriers to fly regional jets of roughly 60 passengers rather than 130-passenger Boeing 737s, he said.

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