Every day hundreds of people come and go from Bob Hope Airport, dropping dollars into the hands of cab drivers and at hotels and restaurants. In the lingo of marketing gurus the airport becomes a touch point for visitors, that first personal impression of Southern California that doesn’t come from a television or movie screen. “They are landing at Bob Hope Airport but everywhere you look it says Burbank,” said Charlie Lombardo, a member of the tri-city commission that owns and operates the airport. As a major connection between Burbank and the nation it would seem natural that the city in which it is located would be stable in its relations with the airfield. That has not always been the case. Terms like contentious and bi-polar are used to describe past relations between Burbank and the airport’s governing body, the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority. Earlier in the decade both city officials and airport commissioners alike were cautious about talking to one another. Extended lawsuits on land use control didn’t help matters. It was, one city official described, like a political chess game in which you didn’t want to find yourself in checkmate. Despite the acrimony the business of the airport moved forward. Burbank’s leadership never doubted the importance of the airport to the city and the Los Angeles region in terms of jobs and revenues. But with those benefits came the downside of aircraft noise and disagreements with the airport authority on the size of the terminal. In 2005, the two sides at long last called a truce with the signing of a development agreement that put a 10-year moratorium on a new terminal and taking it off the table as an issue. “They found a happy medium, ground they could agree on,” said Bruce Ackerman, president of the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley. The airport opened in 1930 as United Airport and served as the primary airfield for the Los Angeles region until the 1950s when what would become Los Angeles International Airport opened. Lockheed operated it as a commercial airstrip even while making military aircraft there during World War II. The airport authority bought the airport from Lockheed in 1978, a defining moment in its history, Lombardo said. Seven airlines serve the airport, with Southwest having the highest number of flights. Economic Impact An economic impact study released last month concluded that Bob Hope Airport generates $3.9 billion in economic input and over 36,000 jobs in the Southern California economy. The study by consulting firm Unison-Maximus and UCG Associates used 2006 economic data and a survey of 1,200 passengers. It replaces a study conducted in 1995 when the economic output was $878 million and 17,000 jobs. In the 2006, data, the Burbank airfield generates 2,400 jobs at the airport itself and another 34,000 full-time equivalent jobs in the broader economy. The airport generates $386.3 million in taxes, with $260 million going to the state and $125 million going to local government. The study also found that passengers using the airport are well-educated and affluent and gave it the highest rating for convenience when compared to Los Angeles International, Long Beach, Ontario International and John Wayne airports. Included among the suggested improvements made by passenger were cleaner bathrooms, more restaurants, a free Wi-Fi connection, and larger baggage claim area. “We do try to provide the best facilities we can given the environment we operate in,” Lombardo said.
Airport Relations Better After Turbulence