What do you do if you’re a midsize hub airport that wants to grow traffic?
You hire a consultant.
At least that is what Burbank Bob Hope Airport did recently. Like other facilities of its size, Burbank has had trouble holding onto flights in the past five years, and in 2012, American Airlines pulled completely out of the airport. Burbank served 4.1 million passengers in 2012, down from 5.9 million in 2007. That’s not nearly as bad as L.A./Ontario International Airport’s decline — down from about 7.2 million passengers in 2007 to 4.3 million passengers last year. But it’s still not good.
Hence the April 2013 report from Sixel Consulting Group, which studied traffic from a one-year period ending in third quarter 2012 and came up with some interesting findings.
Here are some of them:
- Burbank is retaining fewer passengers in the Los Angeles region than in 2010. Many of them are flying instead from LAX.
- Burbank fares are up 31 percent since 2010
- Long-haul service will always be a challenge for the airport, in part because of its relatively short runway length and difficult terrain.
- 82 percent of available seats at the airport are for flights within 500 miles.
- Average flight length is 466 miles — or less than half of the average domestic stage length at LAX.
- The consultants seem to push back against the idea that Burbank must be the short-haul airport for the L.A. area. “While the temptation is to believe BUR is the “short haul” airport for the Basin, this is more a reflection of the service available at each airport,” they wrote.
- The consultants found fares for the few longer flights at Burbank are actually among the lowest in the region, which is a problem for attracting new service. Why would an airline want to add a new flight if it cannot command high fares?
- Airlines pay about $1.97 in airport fees for every passenger — or a fraction of what they pay at Ontario ($11.20) and John Wayne Airport in Orange County ($8.77). Those low airport costs are considered friendly to an airline’s bottom line.
- As of April 2013, the consultants appeared disappointed with the load factors at the airport. “Currently 30 percent of seats go out empty,” they wrote. That’s 2,500 seats a day.