A Southwest airliner lands at Bob Hope Airport.

A Southwest airliner lands at Bob Hope Airport. (Times Community News / August 7, 2012)

Passenger traffic and parking revenues at Burbank Bob Hope Airport in June each tumbled by more than 7% compared to the same period last year, according to figures released this week, even as other regional airfields experienced growth.

In June 2012, 342,944 passengers traveled through Bob Hope, a nearly 7.8% slide from 371,931 passengers in June 2011, according to a report to the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority on Monday.

“June was disappointing for us, unfortunately,” said Dan Feger, the airport’s executive director.

In the past few months, airport officials had said the passenger numbers, while down, were showing a glimmer of recovery, but Feger said they’re not sure if the trend is continuing.

“We just haven’t seen what we had hoped we were going to see,” he said.

Parking revenues also decreased from $1.56 million in June 2011 to $1.45 million in June 2012, a 7.2% decline.

Feger said that if American Airlines — which pulled out of Burbank in February — had been factored into the numbers, the declines might have actually been slight increases, or the figures might at least have remained flat.

American made up about 7.5% of the airfield’s total passenger traffic.

“What we budgeted was an increase from May to June,” Feger said. “In fact, we had a drop.”

Whether that drop could be attributed to the still-sluggish economy or some other factor was unknown. But not helping matters was the fact that Bob Hope Airport is at the “bottom of the food chain” when it comes to air service, Feger said.

“We don’t really create the demand for air service. We only help provide it,” he said. “And it’s up to the economy and the cities to attract passengers and generate the business that generates travel.”

John Hatanaka, the airport’s senior deputy executive director, said the economy isn’t producing discretionary income for business and leisure travelers — a trend that carried through to July.

“We are also seeing that the carriers are getting more and more proficient in how they allocate their resources,” he said.

He cited Southwest Airlines, which has been offering fewer available seats and flying fewer passengers, but has reported more net income as it operates fuller flights.

Meanwhile, other airports in the region reported passenger rate increases, except for struggling Ontario Airport, which saw a 9.7% nose dive.

John Wayne Airport had a 4.7% jump, Los Angeles International Airport reported a 2% increase and Long Beach Airport experienced a 9.6% spike.

During the airport authority meeting, Commissioner Terry Tornek asked why most other airports in the region are improving their performances.

John Wayne’s increase was tied to additional domestic flights and a new international flight to Cabo San Lucas — all offered by AirTran, which recently merged with Southwest, Hatanaka said.

Long Beach Airport has three significant factors working in its favor, said Kerry Gerot, the airfield’s public affairs officer.

While Long Beach is regulated and limited in the number of slots — or one landing and one take-off — it can offer each day, the flights are almost fully booked, averaging roughly 86% capacity, according to the airport. That compares to an average load factor of 69.5% last month at Bob Hope Airport.

Bob Hope Airport also flies smaller aircraft compared to the airfield in Long Beach.

And Long Beach benefits from being located almost halfway between John Wayne and Los Angeles airports, near Disneyland, the beach cities and Los Angeles.

“It’s a heavily, heavily populated area,” Gerot said, adding that summer tourism makes a big economic splash for the airport each year.

Hatanaka said Bob Hope continues to work on retaining flights and bringing new airlines into the mix. Officials are also looking into offering incentives to all airlines, but that program must by approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.

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