Burbank Looks to Add Curfew While LAX Keeps Expanding

Remember that whole strategy from LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa about airport regionalization? Well, it took yet another step backward yesterday with the recommendation of the Burbank airport authority to enact a hard curfew (via this excellent Airliners.net thread).

You can guess where this is coming from – the surrounding community. Thanks to their objections, the airport wants to prohibit any operations between 10p and 7a. Is that a horrible idea? Well, not entirely. We have one of those here in Long Beach, and it’s nice to have peace and quiet while we sleep. That being said, these are very different in that Burbank will have much stiffer fines. That’s bad news for travelers.

In Long Beach, airlines don’t pay a fine for violating the curfew until their third violation. At that point, they pay a whopping $100. Then each subsequent violation in a twelve month period will cost $300. (Read more) The Burbank fine, according to the Application (pdf), will cost $3,671 for the first fine, $7,342 for the second, $11,013 for the third, and $14,684 for the fourth over a twelve month period. If an airline has four violations, it’s banned from the airport for a year.

I know, you’re wondering what this has to do with you, right? Well, with penalties that steep, airlines will be less willing to schedule any flights near that curfew time at night for fear that they’ll miss it. Right now, there are a couple of flights scheduled to go before 7a and I think one after 10p. The night flights, even the ones before curfew, are most at risk, because if they’re delayed in the slightest, they won’t be able to land. Then early morning flights get in trouble because the plane that usually spends the night in Burbank ready to fly early the next day won’t be able to land until morning. That, of course, is dependent upon the airlines being willing to even schedule flights at those times with the potential penalties so high.

Probably even more annoying than having your flight not get out on time will be when you’re on a late arriving flight into Burbank. Let’s say you’re on the last flight from SFO and fog has delayed flights a couple hours. Well, that last flight would probably go if it were heading to Long Beach because the cost of violating the curfew isn’t prohibitively steep if it doesn’t happen often. (Honestly, it could rise some and still be ok.) At Burbank? Forget it. They’ll just park the plane or divert you to another airport instead. Great, huh?

My advice: If this curfew gets enacted, don’t fly into Burbank too close to the curfew. Fly to LAX instead. Not what the Mayor of LA had in mind, right? Well, he’s not exactly following his regionalization plan either. While Burbank is thumbing its nose at the that strategy, Mayor Villaraigosa is crowing about a new flight that he’s landed at LAX.

The new flight is on Korean Air. The airline will now fly from LAX to Sao Paulo, presumably as an extension of one of the daily Seoul/Incheon flights. Asian carriers that want access to the largest city in South America can’t fly nonstop (range problems) so they need to find a place to go first. JAL used to fly via LAX (I actually took the flight once), but now they go through JFK. So, Korean will now pick up the slack and try to make a go of it.

Now, Mayor Villaraigosa claims in the city’s press release that the flights are “a direct result of the Mayor’s 2006 trade mission to Asia.” Um, right. I really hope the airline isn’t sitting around saying, “Gee, you know I like that guy. How cool was it that he came to visit us? We should start a flight to Brazil from his city.”

So, what are the takeaways here?

  • If Burbank enacts this curfew, don’t book a flight arriving there near the curfew for fear you may not get there in time
  • If you’re flying to Sao Paulo from LA, congrats. You now have a nonstop option.
  • Regionalization isn’t as easy as you (or the Mayor) might think

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