BURBANK — The number of passengers who used Bob Hope Airport continued to drop last year, but the rate of decline was less sharp than in 2009, when the economy was tanking.
From January 2010 through November, about 4.1 million passengers traveled through Bob Hope Airport — a 2.6% drop from 2009, according to a report to the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority.
With one calendar month left uncounted, airport officials on Monday said the silver lining was that 2010 did not see the double-digit drops in passenger counts that dominated 2009.
Passenger numbers in 2009 were the lowest in eight years, falling from 5.3 million in 2008 to 4.6 million. The volume of passengers peaked at more than 5.9 million in 2007.
"I think the overall trend has simply been one of bottoming out from the rate of decreases that commenced in 2008 going forward," said airport spokesman Victor Gill.
The economy has forced airlines to run more efficiently and slash the number of flights, Gill said.
Cargo shipments at Bob Hope Airport increased 9% in November, but that sector only contributes a small amount to the airport's bottom line, Gill said. The major source of revenue comes from the money spent on concessions, parking and other areas. So with fewer passengers, there's less available money to be spent.
"Passenger counts really equate to revenue," Gill said. "There is a lot of spinoff income that comes from the passengers that doesn't come from the cargo."
Burbank's figures mirrored those at Ontario International Airport, which saw a slight decrease in passenger travel through the end of November, according to its operator, Los Angeles World Airports. For the same period, Los Angeles International Airport saw a 4.5% increase in passenger travel.
Glendale City Councilman Frank Quintero, who also serves as president of the airport authority, said he was not surprised by the soft Burbank figures.
"It's a sign of the times," he said. "The economy has not rebounded, so consequently air travel is low."
Meanwhile, the airport authority is looking to the future with projects like the $120-million transit center that will combine bus, train and rental car traffic into one hub.
"What we're doing is taking steps to do the right type of planning that when the economy does pick up, we will be able to service the passengers," Quintero said. "And more importantly, we will reduce the traffic congestion on Burbank streets."