Though Airport’s Traffic Lags, Finances Relatively Steady

Photo by Christian Leonard / Glendale News-Press
The Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority voted this week to purchase a new firefighting vehicle with federal grants. Hollywood Burbank Airport, which the authority oversees, continues to struggle with low passenger counts.

Hollywood Burbank Airport, like similar facilities across the nation that have been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, continues to see a drastic drop in passengers compared with last year’s traffic, airport officials said this week.
Staff from the airport told Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority commissioners on Monday that passenger numbers of about 110,500 for July 2020 — the most recent figures available — showed a 79.6% plummet from July 2019’s total of nearly 542,000.
About 1,875,000 fewer passengers have traveled through the airport from January to July this year compared with the same period last year, according to officials, a drop of more than 57%.

Officials also explained during the meeting that revenue from parking fell from about $1.87 million in July 2019 to $445,000 in July 2020.
However, they told commissioners — who include Glendale council members Paula Devine and Ara Najarian, and Glendale Mayor Vrej Agajanian — that the facility had seen some airlines inching up their numbers of flights since the April tailspin.
Officials also said in interviews that the airport is in a relatively steady financial position. Like other airports, it received funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act — in Hollywood Burbank’s case, more than $21 million.
“We’re doing fine,” said airport Executive Director Frank Miller in a phone interview. “[We have] passed a balanced budget … and we’re looking forward to being very cognitive in the industry.”
The airport’s budget, though having undergone some cuts for this fiscal year, anticipated a sharp decline in activity from July to September, with the expectation that operations will gradually increase over the following months.
The airport authority has not had to lay off or furlough any of its roughly 145 employees, according to Nerissa Sugars, its director of marketing communications and air service. That figure does not include staff not employed by the authority, including airline and restaurant workers
Sugars also indicated during Monday’s meeting that the drop in June 2020’s numbers compared with those of June 2019 was even larger than the July difference — about 81%.
“Since [April], there has been a very slow increase, and we’re talking a couple hundred passengers,” she said in a phone interview after the meeting.
But although Hollywood Burbank Airport remains far below its previous stats, it isn’t alone. With many airlines downsizing flights — JetBlue and Delta stopped or nearly stopped all operations at the local airport for July — and business trips canceled because of the pandemic, major facilities across the United States have reported lower passenger numbers.
For example, officials told commissioners Monday, Los Angeles International Airport saw its July 2019 passenger count of about 8.47 million people fall to roughly 1.52 million people in July 2020. John Wayne Airport in Orange County had about 239,000 passengers in July this year, compared with nearly 946,000 in July 2019.

FIREFIGHTERS TO GET NEW VEHICLE
The authority’s leaders also voted Monday to approve the purchase of an $809,000 vehicle designed to fight fires and assist in rescue operations involving airport aircraft.
The “aircraft rescue firefighting” vehicle replaces one of the airport’s four. Federal Aviation Administration guidelines say firefighting vehicles should be replaced when they are 10-15 years old, according to Tom Lenahen, chief of the airport’s fire department. One of the facility’s vehicles is 17 years old.
Before the pandemic, airport staff responded to about 400 calls a year, Lenahen said after the meeting. Roughly 80% of those were medical calls, with the other 20% a mix of fire, rescue and aviation-related responses.
While the FAA requires Hollywood Burbank Airport to have at least two fire suppression vehicles, airport officials usually have three on standby, placing them along the length of the runway, according to a staff report submitted to the authority. A fourth vehicle is kept in reserve and swapped in when other vehicles need to be repaired or maintained.
“This acquisition is going to guarantee that we have a greater-than-minimal response to any aircraft incident that may occur at the airport,” said airport authority Vice President Paula Devine, who emphasized that the entire cost of the project would be paid for by grants. Devine also is a Glendale councilwoman.
The bulk of the funding comes from an FAA grant, while funding for the vehicle’s additional equipment stems from the federal CARES Act.

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