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Thursday, Nov 30, 2023

AIRPORT—Burbank Airport Concessions Back to Pre-Attack Level

In the days immediately following the Sep. 11 attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., newly implemented airport security measures had a devastating impact on revenues at airports across the country, including the Burbank Airport. For starters, friends and family members are now barred from escorting passengers to their boarding gates, which hurt sales at retail shops and concessions inside most airline terminals, particularly at the larger airports. But the heightened security measures have also forced travelers to get to airports much earlier to avoid anticipated long lines at security checkpoints. So, at Burbank, where they are known to blow through the terminal 10 minutes before a departure time, passengers are finding themselves with a little more time on their hands. And according to Steven Mora, owner of Metropolitan Culinary Services, the airport’s primary concessionaire, business is back up to pre-attack levels, despite reports last week that put the financial losses for airport concessions across the country at nearly $900 million. Mora said passengers are in the terminal longer than normal now because long lines have been mitigated by the fact that fewer people are allowed past security checkpoints. As a result, they are drinking at his Airport Bar and Grill and buying snacks at the three concession stands and four bars located inside the terminal while they wait. “We took a very big hit for the first week after the attacks,” said Mora. “Our revenues fell off by about 60 percent on average and, of course, it was 100 percent on the three days we didn’t open at all. But by (the end of the week of Sept. 16) we hit normal numbers again, they remained there all week long and are holding today.” Although Mora said he’s been able to avoid layoffs, he did reduce work schedules during the first week following the attacks. He said long-term expectations for business are good, even with swelling fears about flying and rumors of more attacks. “I don’t really think it’s going to go back down again any time soon,” said Mora. “The people that come to Burbank come here for convenience. The places where you are seeing big hits are the larger airports. Here, it’s different. We don’t usually see a lot of children and families hanging out for very long periods of time anyway. That’s not who we rely on.” According to Gregg Paradies, senior vice president and chief operating officer with Atlanta-based Paradies Shops, which manages Burbank’s airport gift shop, sales fell by about 40 percent the week of Sept. 11. He, too, has implemented reduced schedules for his 25 employees, but so far there have been no layoffs. Although Paradies anticipates “a negative trend for a sustained period of time,” he said the numbers of passengers coming through the terminal are back to almost normal and thinks business will soon be as well. “Our sense is long-term we will have a very sound business once again,” Paradies said. “We just have to withstand this interruption. But long-term people are going to travel, and they are going to travel by air.” As of Friday, flight schedules for the five carriers that serve the Burbank Airport were back up to 85 percent of normal levels, according to Victor Gill, airport spokesman. But the three-day closure immediately following the attacks, coupled with drops in passengers, have exacted a toll on airport revenues. According to Gill, preliminary losses for September are between $750,000 and $1 million, with a significant chunk coming from lost passenger facility charges. At $3 a pop for each departing passenger, the airport is estimating those losses to be in the range of $225,000 to $250,000 for September. The biggest losses, said Gill, are expected to come from parking revenues, which he estimated will be well over $500,000 for the month of September. Lost revenue on landing fees for the month are expected to be about $40,000. The Washington-based Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) announced U.S. airports lost roughly $203 million during the week of the attacks. ACI-NA president David Z. Plavin said the industry could lose another $1.84 billion over the next year and, like the airlines which are getting a $15 billion federal aid package, is pushing the government for federal assistance. So far, Dallas-based Southwest Airlines, Burbank’s busiest carrier, has so far avoided flight cancellations. Of the four other carriers who fly out of Burbank, only America West has cut flights: three going to Phoenix will be phased out over the next few weeks. Regional airports across the country have also taken big hits, and at Van Nuys Airport, which normally sees about 2,000 flights in and out a day, the figure is down to about 1,000, according to Charlene Klink airport spokeswoman. Instrument flight rules have been restored for some flights only, but there are no flights coming in or leaving under visual flight rules, she said. Training flights are also still grounded and expected to cost the roughly 11 aviation schools based in and around the airport about $30,000 a day.

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