Airport revenue hits turbulence

Bob Hope Airport revenue figures for last year flatlined as the number of passengers using the airfield continued to drop.

Operating revenues went from $49.4 million in 2009 to $46.4 million in 2010 — a drop of 6.14%, according to a report to the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority. Meanwhile, expenses increased from $31.7 million in 2009 to $33.6 million in 2010.

And with costs continuing to rise and a number of major capital projects on the horizon, airport officials warned that the trend would probably remain through next year.

"I would not be surprised if the airport shows a flat line for performance — even with an improved economy," said Dan Feger, executive director for the airport authority.

Nearly a third of the expenses were driven by $11.1 million spent on several high-profile capital projects, including upgraded parking lots and refurbished taxi ways.

Because passengers — and the money they spend on concessions, parking fees and other revenue-generating items — are so crucial to the airport, the constant slide of their numbers since the beginning of the recession has been cause for concern for the authority.

Higher oil prices could also hurt airlines, which then pass the cost on to customers already coping with tighter budgets, officials said.

"The price of oil is driving long-range change in passenger levels," said Pasadena Commissioner Frank Logan.

But Feger assured the airport authority that higher oil prices impact airline ticket prices and gas pumps.

"Ticket prices will hold in proportion to [oil] price and then we'll be competing with automobiles," he said.

A looming financial impact will be the $120-million regional transit center, set to break ground in late 2012. As the massive project moves along, it will have a significant impact on the authority's budget, officials said.

"This year's budget includes an $18-million line item for the center," said airport spokesman Victor Gill. "And next year we'll be in full construction."

Still, Bob Hope Airport will benefit from healthy reserve levels and a commitment to keep airline rates and charges unchanged, he said.

"The significance is that we could go through some very rough years and come out all right," Gill said. "It augers well for the ability of airlines to do well at our facility."

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