Bob Hope Airport

An American Airlines plane takes off at the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank. Parking revenues at the airport fell last month after the airline pulled out. (Tim Berger / Staff Photographer / August 8, 2011)

In the first full month since American Airlines pulled out of Bob Hope Airport, parking revenues at the airfield fell by 8.6% in March, officials reported this week.

While the drop is steeper than what the airport has seen in recent months, airport Executive Director Dan Feger said there are signs of a turnaround.

“I'm going to make a guardedly optimist statement,” he told airport commissioners on Monday. “I think that we are starting the recovery in place here at this airport.”

Preliminary parking-revenue numbers for April are showing improvement, Feger said, projecting a less severe drop of 3%.

And parking appears to be increasing during the first two weeks of May, Feger said, citing reports from airport's parking operator, Standard Parking.

“These are anecdotal. We will come back to the commission next month hopefully with some good solid April numbers,” Feger said.

Parking fees, which make up about 40% of the airport's operating revenues, were more than $1.5 million in March, compared to about $1.6 million in March 2011.

American Airlines, which made up about 7.5% of the airfield's passenger traffic, moved out of the Bob Hope Airport in early February, prompting fears about the potential impact to revenues.

Passenger numbers dropped by about 6% in March compared to March 2011, according to a report released to the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority. The decline was below budget projections.

However, if excluding American from the equation, the airport would have seen a 1.7% increase in passengers, Feger said.

The airport handled 332,740 passengers in March, compared to 353,839 in March 2011, according to the report.

Feger said the latest numbers — while still on the decline — show a few rays of hope.

The biggest sign of stabilization is the fact that passenger counts at the remaining airlines at Bob Hope remained constant.

“We think that's the beginning of a hopeful sign for us,” Feger said. “We believe that some of the passengers that used to fly American are [still] flying out of this airport. We also believe that it means the passengers are coming back.

“With the improvement in the economy, people are going to Las Vegas, people are going up to the Bay area.”

Year-to-date, 975,529 passengers have traveled through the airfield, down nearly 3.4% from the approximately 1 million passengers reported during the same period last year.

Passenger tallies at other regional airports have varied greatly. Ontario Airport saw an almost 9% decline, and John Wayne Airport reported a 1.8% drop. Meanwhile, Los Angeles International Airport continued its steady growth, with a 6% jump in passenger traffic.