The withdrawal of American Airlines from Bob Hope Airport is more than just another bump in the road for the regional airfield.
FOR THE RECORD: This editorial incorrectly stated the number of passengers the Bob Hope Airport stands to lose after American Airlines closes operations. It is 292,500. In addition, the editorial failed to make clear that the Glendale-Burbank-Pasadena Airport Authority is the sole governmental body financially responsible for the facility.
On Feb. 9, the airline that made up 7.5% of Bob Hope’s passenger traffic from January to November 2011 will close shop. That’s roughly 3.9 million people during that 11-month period. Unless another airline steps up to fill the scheduling void, that could mean 3.9 million fewer passengers to use concessions, pay for parking and generate other badly needed revenue for the airport.
Bob Hope Airport has already been warned that the continued weakening of its financial stability could threaten its high AA- credit rating, which would make it more expensive to borrow, or issue bonds, in the future.
Since parking fees alone make up about 40% of the airport’s operating revenues, according to the credit rating agency Fitch, that leaves Bob Hope in dicey situation, especially as it moves forward with a multi-million-dollar transit center and other major upgrades. Southwest, by far Bob Hope Airport’s busiest carrier, now becomes even more vital. Any reductions in Southwest’s schedule could severely weaken the airport’s precarious revenue picture.
Passenger traffic at Bob Hope and Ontario airports has fallen precipitously over the past year. The situation has become so dire that officials have begun discussing closing a terminal at Ontario. Meanwhile, traffic at Los Angeles International Airport has risen.
Bob Hope Airport is obvious source of pride and identity for the three cities that have a stake in its operation — Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena. But given what’s happened since 2011, it’s time stakeholders undergo a very serious and thorough evaluation of just where they stand financially before committing themselves to expensive building plans for the future.