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Where's Bob Hope Airport? Rebranding seen as possible way to boost use

Rebranding seen as one way to boost passenger traffic at Bob Hope Airport

Burbank has long labored under the shadow of Los Angeles. From studios to shopping centers to film schools, the city has struggled to carve an identity apart from the megatropolis roughly 12 miles to its southeast.

And that includes its airport. Much like John Wayne Airport in Orange County, Burbank's airport has a moniker that doesn't help travelers figure out where it is: Bob Hope.

Add in steady declines in passenger traffic and struggles to maintain an 85-year-old terminal, and you have an airport in search of a makeover.

The first step may be rebranding Bob Hope Airport to highlight its proximity to Hollywood and the many film and television studios in the San Fernando Valley.

The idea is still in the early stages, but may involve returning to the airport's pre-1978 identity as the Hollywood Burbank Airport, officials said this week during a retreat for members of the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority.

The purpose of the retreat at the Pasadena Conference Center was to discuss the state of the airport and "the goals and objectives … for the coming year and for the coming decade," said Dan Feger, the authority's executive director.

"We have on our plate quite a few challenges," Feger said, citing proposed plans for a replacement terminal as one of the most pressing.

Airport staff will continue the "battle" to maintain the existing terminal while working with Burbank and other stakeholders on a proposed 14-gate replacement building, he said. There's also the task of finding ways to increase revenue through cost controls and more efficient operations — not to mention getting passenger numbers back up to previous levels.

Despite a 3.7% decline in passenger traffic during the 2013-14 fiscal year, Feger said, the airport was able to keep its overall performance on budget and made up revenue through property leases, film shoots and other non-airline sources.

Rebranding was discussed as one way to improve the airport's revenue through increased passenger traffic, which has mostly lagged since 2008. But the number of passengers showed healthy growth of more than 5% in September, compared with the same month last year.

To help boost passenger numbers, airport officials want to court travelers who may be choosing flights in or out of Los Angeles International Airport because of its clearer geographic reference. They said Bob Hope Airport's official name — adopted in 2003, the year the comedy legend died — lacks a geographic reference to the places many travelers want to visit in the Los Angeles area.

"Some people seem to think it's in Palm Springs," said Denis Carvill, the airport's director of contractors and properties, referring to the association of Bob Hope with the location of his former estate and an annual golf tournament bearing his name.

Bob Hope Airport probably will keep its name, but the authority will try to build a stronger association between the airport and nearby media companies, entertainment venues and tourist attractions, airport spokesman Victor Gill said.

chad.garland@latimes.com

Twitter: @chadgarland

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