Will a new terminal mean more passengers for Burbank Bob Hope Airport?

Burbank Bob Hope Airport is exploring building a new 14-gate terminal. Photo: Burbank Airport.

Burbank Bob Hope Airport is exploring building a new 14-gate terminal. Photo: Burbank Airport.

Within the next decade, Burbank Bob Hope Airport wants to build a new terminal with all the goodies passengers have come to expect, like spacious gate areas, plenty of power outlets and popular concession brands. Early plans call for a 14-gate terminal with about 350,000 square feet, making it about  150,000 square feet larger than the current building.

This is old news. But for a story published today, I wanted to know whether the new terminal might help Burbank Airport reverse its slide in passenger traffic. The quaint facility built in 1930 is not thriving. In 2013, Bob Hope Airport served 3.88 million passengers, a decline of 5.2 percent from the previous year. At the airport’s peak, in 2007, more than 5.9 million passenger used it.

So will a fancy new building — one that might cost between $300 and $400 million — reverse Burbank’s decline? Not likely, experts say.

“The problem is the communities want to have a good front door and that’s nonsense,” said Mike Boyd, a Colorado-based aviation industry consultant. “The best airport is the one that the customer doesn’t remember. Unless you have asbestos falling from the ceiling or rats chewing away the ticket counters, you don’t build a new terminal and get more traffic.”

Burbank’s problem isn’t really its terminal. The problem is Los Angeles International Airport, where four major airlines — United, American, Delta and Southwest — are vying for market share. That’s where the air service expansion is coming.

“You have something called LAX you can get to reasonably easily that has a whole lot more air service and airlines,” Boyd told me. “LAX is the giant sucking sound.”

If Burbank is to thrive again, some say, it will to be because LAX has reached its breaking point. No one is sure when that will be, but LAX is on pace to break its all-time passenger traffic record this year. It was set in 2000 at 67.3 million passengers.

““We don’t really believe that building a new terminal building is going to induce new service,” Burbank airport Executive Director Dan Feger said. “What we do think over time is that over time the congestion of LAX will drive passengers to Burbank.”

What do you think? Are Boyd and Feger right? Will Burbank only thrive again when LAX can’t handle more air traffic? Or is it possible that a new terminal will make the airport more popular?

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  • AMK

    For as much as I love LAX, for everything I can get there that I cant at BUR, I still love BUR too. First off, its a stone’s throw away from where I live, and I can just about fly directly to most places I often fly to. That said, it would be great if BUR even got a bit of a face-lift let alone a whole new terminal. I hope this happens though. I really do.

  • Brian Sumers

    AMK — Thanks for your post. I’m curious about one thing. What do your neighbors think of the airport? Do they want it to thrive? Or would they prefer it to lose flights, thus making things a little quieter?

  • AMK

    Not too sure Brian. But thats an interesting thought. It’s a question I’ll have to ask.

  • http://www.thewildblue.net AlaskanFlyboy

    I’m a little late to the game here, but I’ve flown in and out of that airport since I was a few weeks old when my parents flew from our home in Alaska to surprise my fathers parents for Christmas. Maybe it’s just the nostalgic ties, but I’ve always loved the terminal for its uniqueness among the airports I’ve flown in and out of in my life. Yes, it needs some updating, but the place has always had a “homey” feel. It would be a shame to lose that in a complete rebuild.I say, keep the terminal and the airstairs, but get an interior decorator in the place who will take what has always been great about the old and marry it with the new.