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United’s early-bird flights creating division

Ryan Carter

Burbank- Glendale-Pasadena Airport officials and a popular commercial

air service are not feeling united these days.

Four months after officials thought they had ironed out problems


with a United Airlines flight that was not con- forming to a

voluntary flight curfew, the problem appears to be taking off again.

Under the airport’s voluntary curfew, commercial flight operators

are asked to refrain from takeoffs and landings between 10 p.m. and 7



But beginning Monday, United flights from Burbank to San Francisco

are scheduled to depart at 6:47 a.m. daily, four minutes earlier than

the present departure time, according to an Airport Authority staff


The move by United has prompted the authority to send a letter to

the Chicago-based airline, urging the company to move the flight time

closer to 7 a.m.


“They are the ‘Bad Santa’ of the airlines that fly into Burbank,

because they have a flight that falls into the curfew hours,” Airport

Authority President Charles Lombardo said.

United spokesman Stephen Roth said that while the airline is

sensitive to airport curfews, the new takeoff times are prompted by

passenger demand.

“United has tried to be as responsive as possible to the voluntary

curfews in place, while at the same time being responsive to the


travel needs of business people and leisure travelers in the

community,” Roth said.

The 6:47 a.m. departures, he added, are necessary because they

connect to a bank of flights in San Francisco bound for the East

Coast, Hawaii and the Pacific Northwest.

Airport officials say they hope the company will adhere to a “good

corporate citizen” policy by moving the flight departure time back to

6:51 a.m., which, when factoring in taxi time, means the plane will

take off at 7 a.m. or later.

“Restricting operations from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. respects the wishes

of our noise-sensitive community, and still provides aircraft

operators with necessary flexibility,” Airport Executive Director

Dios Marrero said in the letter. “A retreat from this practice by

United Airlines shows a lack of commitment to the community.”

City and airport officials sent letters to United in July asking

that it eliminate a 6:40 a.m. Sunday flight to San Francisco, which

the airline agreed to do in September.

At the time, United officials said they would continue to offer a

6:46 a.m. flight Monday through Saturday because of high demand. Now,

the airline is proposing a Sunday flight, which airport officials

find hard to stomach.

Lombardo said commis- sioners have asked the city of Burbank to

draft a letter to the airlines, and they will ask the cities of

Glendale and Pasadena to do the same.

“We don’t have the power of regulation, but we have the power of

persuasion,” Gill said.