A Southwest Airlines plane takes off from the Bob Hope Airport on Thursday, July 19, 2012.

A Southwest Airlines plane takes off from the Bob Hope Airport on Thursday, July 19, 2012. (Times Community News / November 8, 2012)

The number of passengers at Bob Hope Airport plummeted by 10% in September compared to last year -- catching officials off guard.

Revenues generated by parking fees -- an important source of income for the airport -- also dropped sharply, according to the latest report released on Monday.

The decline, which senior deputy executive director John Hatanaka said “shocked” airport staff, was by far the steepest drop among other airports in the region.

Ontario Airport reported a 5.8% decrease, while Long Beach Airport saw a 6.4% drop, Hatanaka said. Meanwhile, there was a 1.48% jump in passengers at Los Angeles International Airport and a nearly 1% bump at John Wayne Airport -- both due primarily to stepped up international travel, he added.

Bob Hope Airport handled 324,176 passengers in September, down from 360,321 during the same period last year, according to the statistics released to the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority.

Since January, a little more than 3 million passengers have traveled through the airport, compared to about 3.2 million during the same period last year.

While airport officials didn’t give specific reasons why the drop was so severe, Dan Feger, the airport’s executive director, attributed 7% of the decrease to the departure of American Airlines in February.

Hatanaka also said airlines are reducing the number of available seats in order to keep planes closer to capacity to counter rising fuel prices.

Parking revenues were $1.5 million in September, a 9.7% tumble for $1.67 million in September 2011.

Airport officials aren’t letting the lower-than-expected numbers deter them, Hatanaka said.

“While the results for September were disappointing, the staff remains focused on what we’re trying to do,” Hatanaka said.

For instance, airport officials are launching a $150,000 regional advertising campaign and upping the cost to park in Lot C in an effort to drive up passenger numbers and parking revenues.

The ad campaign will include billboard advertising in five locations in the San Fernando Valley reminding travelers that Bob Hope is a smart alternative to LAX.

Authority members selected the slogan “Close. Convenient. Comfortable.” for the billboards.

There will also be 180 60-second spots airing on Thousand Oaks radio station KLSI-AM, which plays music from the 1980s and ‘90s. The station’s listeners are in the target market the airfield wants to reach, said Victor Gill, the airport’s director of public affairs and communications.

Billy Bush, co-host of the syndicated entertainment show Access Hollywood, will record three versions of the commercial.

Authority members also approved increasing the daily parking fee for Lot C from $10 to $12, which will take effect in about a month.

Feger said the nearby Marriott Hotel already charges $12 a day and VSP Parking charges $13 a day for comparable outdoor parking.

“We believe that competition will dictate that we’re actually undervaluing the product here,” he said. “We believe it makes absolute sense to match the competition.”

Parking rates for Lots A and B will remain $10.

The fee increase will generate an additional $250,000 a year for the airport, Feger said.

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Follow Mark Kellam on Twitter: @LAMarkKellam