Passenger count nosedives at Burbank's Bob Hope Airport

ARCHIVE PHOTO: Passengers wait in line at the Southwest counters at the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank. (Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer / July 16, 2009)

The number of passengers at Bob Hope Airport took a nosedive in January, with a 12% drop compared to last year, leaving some airport staffers feeling like they’re a bit under siege.

Airport Executive Director Dan Feger paused before starting his report to the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority on Monday to display a Bob Hope Airport version of the famous “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster, which was used by the British government to try and raise morale in advance of German bombardment of major English cities during the World War II.

“The news is not very good, it’s not a good-news report,” Feger said. “The rate at which we lost passengers even exceeded our expectations in our budget.”

The airport handled 293,644 passengers last month, down from 333,530 in January 2012. The 12% plummet follows an 8% decline in December, and continues a steady slide that the airfield reported throughout last year.

Commissioner Don Brown, representing Burbank, asked if passengers were leaving because flight costs listed in local newspapers were often higher at Bob Hope than at competing airports, even though the airport advertises itself as a low-cost option.

“The papers are saying one thing and we’re saying another … why is there that discrepancy?” Brown asked.

John Hatanaka, the airport's senior deputy executive director, said that although Bob Hope Airport had received an award last year for the lowest average flight cost, that accomplishment was due to the low cost of the airport’s long-haul flights.

“[Flying] within a 500-mile radius or less, (Bob Hope is) actually one of the more expensive airports,” Hatanaka said.

He added that newspapers often list the “walk-up” fare — the cost for buying a ticket at the terminal.

“Walk-up fares (at Bob Hope) are the most expensive in the region,” Hatanaka said.

Passenger numbers at other airports were a mixed bag in January. Ontario Airport reported a 9% decrease and Long Beach Airport saw a 3.5% drop. Meanwhile, John Wayne Airport saw a 9.6% increase due to an increase in domestic flights and new international service to Mexico, according to Hatanaka.

Los Angeles International Airport saw a 3.3% jump in passengers, he added.

There was one comparative bright spot, however, as the airport’s parking revenues saw a comparably mild decrease of 4.8%, with the airport pulling in $1.37 million last month compared to $1.49 million in January 2012.

Feger said the softened decline was due to the implementation of parking rate increases in the airport’s lots, which were completed in mid-January.

“This is exactly what was planned,” Feger said. “And we hope to see more benefit in the February numbers.”

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