The Los Angeles basin has relatively cheap airfare, according to federal data

Long Beach Airport has the cheapest fares in the nation by one metric. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova/Staff Photographer.

Long Beach Airport has the cheapest fares in the nation by one metric. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova/Staff Photographer.

Greater Los Angeles is a good place to buy domestic airfare, according to statistics released Tuesday by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

The L.A. Basin had an average domestic roundtrip airfare of 383.55 in the fourth quarter of 2013, a number that has dropped 12.5 percent since 2000, when the average airfare was 438.41. (The fares are inflation adjusted, so 2013 numbers can be compared to 2000.) Among major metropolitan areas, only Chicago had a lower average airfare at the end of 2013.

Region Inflation Adjusted Average Fare 4Q 2000 Inflation Adjusted Average Fare 4Q 2010 Inflation Adjusted Average Fare 4Q 2011 Inflation Adjusted Average Fare 4Q 2012 Inflation Adjusted Average Fare 4Q 2013 % change 2000-2013 % change 2012-2013
Greater New York City 544.78 396.73 415.22 412.92 434.12 -20.3 5.1
Greater Los Angeles 438.41 360.84 385.21 383 383.55 -12.5 0.1
Greater San Francisco 484.29 355.46 381.71 385.04 385.94 -20.3 0.2
Greater Chicago 466.59 352.56 359.02 368.16 382.22 -18.1 3.8
Greater Washington DC 461.3 360.97 387.9 378.33 384.01 -16.8 1.5
Greater Boston 504.09 343.82 360.87 375.03 369.21 -26.8 -1.6
Greater Dallas/Fort Worth 513.88 386.92 403.47 385.82 383.98 -25.3 -0.5
Greater Houston 452.8 397.8 431.69 446.52 436.84 -3.5 -2.2

The Los Angeles basin consists of Burbank/Glendale/Pasadena, Long Beach, Los Angeles Int’l, Ontario and Santa Ana.

Long Beach has the cheapest fares in the nation, with an average roundtrip fare of 248.63. You’ll probably see a lot of media coverage about this today. But just remember that Long Beach is a bit unusual. Flights from the airport are relatively short, mostly on the West Coast. And the main tenant, Jetblue, is considered a low-fare airline. The is a good thing for travelers who can use Long Beach. But this is not really a business plan other airports can borrow.

Here is our local, airport by airport chart.

Overall rank Region Inflation Adjusted Average Fare 4Q 2000 Inflation Adjusted Average Fare 4Q 2010 Inflation Adjusted Average Fare 4Q 2011 Inflation Adjusted Average Fare 4Q 2012 Inflation Adjusted Average Fare 4Q 2013 % change 2000-2013 % change 2012-2013
1 Long Beach 402.39 248.86 236.8 237.34 248.63 -38.2 4.8
3 Burbank 251.7 280.7 308.72 285.92 281.23 11.7 -1.6
16 Ontario 341.32 317.74 337.94 343.45 335.2 -1.8 -2.4
33 Santa Ana 490.48 350.04 371.16 371.77 369.41 -24.7 -0.6
76 Los Angeles 479.7 393.96 420.56 415.95 414.88 -13.5 -0.3
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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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Should Jetblue start overselling flights? And other airline news of the past week.

Jetblue doesn't oversell its flights, generally. But should it?  (Thomas R. Cordova/Staff Photographer)

Jetblue doesn’t oversell its flights, generally. But should it? Bloomberg Businessweek asked in an article.  (Thomas R. Cordova/Staff Photographer)

Here are some of the stories I’ve enjoyed in the past week.

Jetblue boasts that it rarely oversells flights. This sounds good, but it means the airline probably flies a bunch of segments with empty seats — since not every passenger shows up for each flight. This Bloomberg BusinessWeek story — “JetBlue Never Bumps Passengers. Maybe It Should” — asks whether Jetblue should change policy to chase more revenue and fill more seats.

Locally, Burbank Bob Hope Airport reported that it handled about 3.88 million passengers in 2013, down about 5 percent from the previous year, according to the Burbank Leader. As we’ve noted many times here, it is not a good time to be a midsize airport. For now, airlines prefer big-city hubs, like LAX.

The New York Times says that on-time data is flawed because the on-time ratings of major airlines do not include flights operated by their commuter partners. Thus an airline like United might report decent on-time numbers for January, even though its United Express partners — who are technically independent airlines — fair far worse.

Virgin Atlantic will cease flying from London to Australia through Hong Kong on May 5, according to Business Traveller magazine. The route used an Airbus A340-600 airplane with four engines — a plane that is notoriously inefficient compared to more modern twin-engine jetliners.

Korean Air is making Houston its 11th U.S. gateway, Today in the Sky reported this week. The service starts in May. Korean will use a Boeing 777-200.

And finally, want to learn more about me, Brian Sumers, your blogger? I answered some questions recently on my travel habits for JohnnyJet,  the indefatigable travel blogger. You can find the Q&A here. 

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Can airports like BUR and ONT grow in ’14? Probably not, one consultant says.

Mike Boyd, the airline consultant we quoted recently criticizing Ontario city leaders for the outsize expectations for the airport, is out with his airline industry predictions for 2014. And just as he did with me, he pulls no punches.

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