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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JetBlue may add fancy first class on LAX flights

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JetBlue Airways, the airline that sought to bring a new civility to economy class 13 years ago, is expected to soon revolutionize coast to coast premium class travel.

Several blogs and news organizations have reported that JetBlue is planning to install first class suites — possibly with doors — on new Airbus A321 aircraft. The news became public after someone found a regulatory filing submitted by the aircraft manufacturer.  Apparently the seat design favored by JetBlue has never been used.

JetBlue currently has only economy class seating, though some seats have extra leg room.

JetBlue has been coy about its plans for a premium cabin. But airline officials announced in March that they were planning some sort of first or business class cabin.

In addition to LAX, JetBlue serves Long Beach and Burbank in the L.A. Basin. While the airline could use its new planes from Long Beach and Burbank, it’s much more likely it would fly them on flights between LAX and New York. Premium traffic demand at LAX tends to be considerably higher than at other airports. And that means fares can be set relatively high.

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