Palmdale Flights are Struggling

You know I love talking about my local airports here in LA and what I consider to be a misguided regionalization strategy. Well, we’ve got some news out of Palmdale that backs me up.

Los Angeles World Airports, which operates Palmdale as well as LAX, Ontario, and Van Nuys, put in $4.6m in incentives to lure commercial service back to Palmdale airport last year. United won the bid and started operating twice daily flights from Palmdale to San Francisco on regional jets. How’s it doing?

Terrible. So far, flights are less than a third full, and I’m sure that the second that subsidy is gone, United is out of there. The airline has already tweaked the schedule, but that hasn’t helped things. LAWA has made other futile efforts to make this work, like adding bus service from Van Nuys to Palmdale. Now, why the heck would you take the bus from Van Nuys to Palmdale 50 miles away when you could go 10 miles and get to Burbank with more flights and lower fares? You wouldn’t.

So now, LAWA has a new plan. They think they need more frequent flights out of the airport. Yeah, that’s the ticket. Instead of two daily jet flights, they want four daily turboprop flights. Um, have they even talked to United about this? The only props United flies under its name right now are the 30 seat Embraer Brasilias. These are slowly being phased out, and I’d be surprised if United was looking to start new service with them.

So what should LAWA do? Look, if you need a subsidy to make a route work, it’s not a route that’s going to work. Are there people living in Palmdale that want to fly out of their local airport? Sure. But I would argue that San Francisco is not the right place to go. That means that any connection to the east is backtracking, and it’s via an airport that has terrible delay problems when the fog rolls in. I’ve always thought that a US Airways flight to Phoenix would have the best shot of success, but with fuel where it is right now, I wouldn’t expect to see anyone taking that risk.

LAWA needs to realize that people are not going to want to fly out of Palmdale unless they live in that area. It may eventually become the next Burbank, but it won’t be the next LAX. The sooner they get that through their heads, the sooner they can stop wasting money out there and start using it on upgrading LAX instead. That will have an impact on a lot more people.

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27 Comments on "Palmdale Flights are Struggling"

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eponymous_coward
Guest

The difference between Burbank and Palmdale is Burbank WAS LA’s airport before LAX showed up, so I’d say it’s a bad comparison- Ontario’s the better one.

And yeah, Phoenix is probably the better option, though I think the best one is probably let the damned thing die.

Greg
Guest

Well said. When will LAWA realize that they can get more bang for the buck investing elsewhere?

Eric
Guest

CF:

They are trying very hard to condition travelers to fly out from other airports before LAX reach 78 MAP (forgot exact no.). What is your take on this issue, and with your airline hat on, where would you take your airline?

Oliver
Guest
I recently flew in/out of Palmdale and loved it. I wanted to go to the Ontario area, but UA’s fares from SFO to ONT are just ridiculous (and it’s on RJs anyway). SFO-PMD-SFO was 1/3 the price. LAX would have been a similar fare, but the drive time from PMD to Ontario seemed a lot more predictable than the LAX-ONT road trip. The only (minor) concern I had was that if the flight was for some reason cancelled, I’d be stuck in the desert for a day (it was a Sunday and they have only one flight on Sundays).
Zack Rules
Guest

You know who LAWA should really be wooing is Allegiant Air to Las Vegas. They just added Santa Barbara and that’s a similar sized market. Allegiant isn’t as affected by fuel as much as the other carriers and is still in expansion mode.

Yo
Guest

America West did fly PHX and LAS to PMD many years ago with Dash 8’s (Pre Mesa code share)

It was announced with all kinds of promise and hoopla, this was when Rockwell and Plant 42 at PMD were still huge and tons of jobs and populations with good income.

But, it bombed, big. If you can’t fit 37 people on a flight to LAS once a day…..

Anyway, PMD is becoming the new MidAmerica airport, everyone wants it to be huge, except for passengers

Feldspar
Guest

Staying with UAL why not PMD-DEN?

Oliver
Guest

By the way, when do the subsidies for UA end? (gotta see if I can squeeze in another trip down south).

David SF eastbay
Member

United assumed everyone living in the Palmdale area wants to go to Asia or the pacific northwest so they used SFO. Years ago when I worked for an airline our express carriers flew from the Palmdale area to LAX four or five times a day and those flights were busy connecting Edwards air base workers to our LAX-Washington, DC nonstop and flts to JFK. People were willing to fly the short distance to LAX and connect somewhere, but going up to SFO if you aren’t going to Asia or the upper west coast it’s not worth the trouble.

Oliver
Guest

David, is it that big of a difference in convenience and time to go from PMD to SFO instead of LAX to catch a transcon to DC? I’d think driving to LAX from the Palmdale area would take longer or at least be more frustrating than the short hop on UX.

Oliver
Guest

As far as I recall, pretty much everyone on my two flights looked like a “personal choice” traveler. Admittedly, it was Friday evening into PMD and Sunday morning out of PMD. The two flights were not full, but certainly more than 1/3 full. I’d guess maybe 60-70% full.

trackback

[…] The Cranky Flier says that the new Palmdale Airport is having difficulty filling flights. Have you used the Palmdale airport? Do you think more flights per day would make the airport more attractive […]

Jim
Guest
One huge problem for Palmdale is the combination of elevation and temperature. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I did weight and balance for a foreign carrier operating out of LAX. Hotter air (as in Palmdale) is less dense; less dense air provides less lift on takeoff. A fully loaded 747 bound for Tokyo (not to mention an Airbus A380) couldn’t take off from Palmdale in the summer. I remember hot days even at LAX where takeoffs were a little dicey. Palmdale’s a nice idea, maybe with high-speed transit, for smaller hops, but we will still… Read more »
Paul
Guest
Brett, I read in the Antelope Valley Press that United came up with the idea to offer more frequent flights with 30-seat turboprops, not the airport authority. Also, the PMD website shows traffic for May that looks to be around a 40 percent load factor which is approaching the one-year goal of 50 percent. It takes time to build a market from scratch. More flights will give business, government and military travelers the schedule frequency they need. With gas costing $4.50 a gallon and the freeways jammed to BUR and LAX, it doesn’t make sense for the community not to… Read more »
Kate
Guest
Brett – As cute and adorable as you are, I have to tell you that you don’t sh**. You’re facts are wrong and you’re attitude has alot to be desired. If you want to be a “cranky flier” then report on actual service you’ve used and not bash efforts you know nothing about. So allow me to get you straight on a few things. First, LAWA did not add bus service from VNY to PMD. Supervisor Antonovich did and the service is from Santa Clarita to PMD not VNY. The bus departs from VNY bus station because there is no… Read more »
Kate
Guest
People who are not in this business really don’t understand how things work. It’s very complex. SFO was the ONLY option for the PMD service. In fact, numerous studies and analysis were done and SFO was the most traveled destination from the AV. While I would personal like to see LAX added to the PMD schedule, there are specific reasons it could not be. People in the AV want their airport to stay open. PMD is like hundreds of other small community airports around the country that desperately need a “way out” of town other than driving on dangerous and… Read more »
Nick Barnard
Member

Kate, you missed the whole thing that cranky has worked in this business…

kate
Guest

nicholas – I missed nothing about brett’s inept attempt to blog on issues he has no knowledge of. I began my career in the travel business before Brett was out of diapers. I work on a side of this business that he is not familiar with. I have met Brett and he has met me. He needs to stick to blogging about traveling and get out of the politics until he becomes more educated on how things work.

trackback

[…] has slowly been phasing out. Anyone want to bet that this will work? Anyone? Bueller? If you read my post earlier this month on the subject, you’ll know that I’ve been critical of LAWA’s efforts to pour […]

trackback

[…] stick this one in the “I told you so” file. Back in June, I said, “I’m sure that the second that subsidy is gone, United is out of there.” I was right. United started flying to Palmdale on June 7, 2007 and committed to stay for 18 […]