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Wednesday, Aug 10, 2022
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Palmdale

If you’ve never bought an airline ticket to Palmdale, you’re in good company. In fact, passenger counts were so low that the Palmdale Regional Airport was forced to close its doors last month. United Express, whose four daily flights to and from LAX were the airport’s only business, ceased service on April 22 due to low passenger counts, leading the city of Los Angeles-owned airport to close its doors while city officials court other airlines to start business there. “The pullout of United Express is why the airport is closed for now,” said Los Angeles Department of Airports spokesman Scott Read, who explained that the department is in talks with several airlines to start service but it is unclear if and when service may start again. Ron Kochevar, Palmdale Airport Terminal Operations manager, said the airport has provided information to several different carriers, but is not actively marketing the airport. United Express is an air shuttle service that the Chicago-based United Airlines Inc. began flying out of Palmdale in 1992, under contracts with other carriers, most recently Mesa Air Group, which flew 19-seat planes to LAX. Mesa said the planes had been flying half full. United was interested in the route as a link to its flights going out of LAX. On April 22, SkyWest Inc., based in St. George, Utah, assumed the United Express contract nationally, but the company decided that flying the route under current passenger levels would be unprofitable. The company has no planes with fewer than 30 seats. “We did a market evaluation and determined that there was no long-term viability for the flight,” said Steven Hart, SkyWest’s vice president of market development. “We’ll be watching the area to see if demand increases.” Hart said the airline would specifically be watching for growth in the Antelope Valley’s aerospace industry employment. An expansion in that industry locally could mean a need for flights to LAX or even the San Francisco Airport, where customers could connect with other United Airlines flights, he said. The Palmdale Regional Airport was also closed from 1985 through 1990 due to lack of business. The airport reopened in 1990 because it had a contract with America West, which wanted to use it as a spoke for its hub in Phoenix. America West flew out of the airport through 1993, when the company underwent a downsizing and cut some of its routes. Vern Lawson, the executive director of the Antelope Valley Local Development Corp., said it is possible that an air carrier could run a profitable service from the airport, but it would mean offering more than just LAX flights. “In the past, there was service to Las Vegas and other places instead of just LAX,” Lawson said. “There has been a lot of population growth here in the past 10 years and there might be more demand for something like that.”

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