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Friday, Jun 2, 2023

United Pulling Out of Palmdale Airport

United Airlines will stop its daily service from Palmdale to San Francisco in December as the beleaguered airline cuts its least profitable routes. The twice daily flights from the Antelope Valley had a difficult time in attracting passengers since the service began in June 2007. To make the service more attractive, the airline tweaked its schedules to allow for better connections from San Francisco; and priced tickets to be competitive with similar flights from Los Angeles International Airport and Bob Hope Airport in Burbank. But in the end, with skyrocketing oil prices placing a heavy financial burden on United and all airlines it was decided the service would end Dec. 7 with the expiration of an agreement between the airline and Los Angeles World Airports, owner and operator of LA/Palmdale Regional Airport. “In this economic environment there wasn’t enough interest to profitably offer the service,” United spokesman Jeff Kovick said. LAWA would still keep Palmdale open as an option in its regionalization strategy to relieve LAX of flights with service to outlying airports although getting another airlines interested would be tough in the face of a lack of passenger interest, said agency Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey. The United flights were only 30 to 35 percent filled and no airline can make it with such low figures, said Lindsey, who discussed United’s withdrawal after taking part in a panel discussion Sept. 18 hosted by the Central City Association. During the forum, Lindsey was asked how the regionalization strategy was working and in her response said that the Palmdale service was not going to be a success. “We will see growth at LAX and Ontario before we see it at Palmdale,” Lindsey said. Palmdale has a spotty history of scheduled commercial air service from the airfield operating from a portion of a larger Air Force base. Before United, Scenic Airways offered flights to North Las Vegas from late 2004 through March 2006. Other carriers previously offered service to Los Angeles International Airport and Phoenix. The difference this time around was a $900,000 Small Community Air Service Development Grant combined with money from the city of Palmdale and Los Angeles County guaranteeing United a revenue stream for the 18 months the airline agreed to operate there. The airline did what it could to accommodate the passengers that did use the service, including changes in scheduling and in airfares. Los Angeles County contributed with its Flyaway bus service between the airport and stops in Santa Clarita and the San Fernando Valley. Airport officials next looked to contracts with the General Services Administration to fill seats with government employees flying to the Antelope Valley for its military installations and aerospace companies doing defense work. But Lindsey said that those contracts were not going to be “a great panacea” because it wasn’t expected many employees would use the service because of the cost involved.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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