I’m not quite sure why it is that Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa thinks that Palmdale is the answer to LA’s aviation needs. One quick look at a map will show you why it’s not going to work:
That line snaking from downtown LA to Palmdale is 70 miles long, and that’s really the only way to get out there. Any more direct route takes you through some pretty large mountains, and that’s why you don’t see much development the further north you go. Even measuring from San Fernando, just a few miles before the route turns toward the east again, you’re still 50 miles away from the airport. As a comparison, O’Hare and JFK are less than 20 miles from downtown Chicago and New York respectively while “far out” Denver airport is still only 25 miles away.
So who in their right mind would think that Palmdale would work as a good feeder airport for the Los Angeles area?
No airlines think that way. That’s why the airport has no current commercial flights. The last attempt involved Scenic Airlines props to North Las Vegas, but of course that failed miserably. In the past United Express has served Los Angeles and America West Express served Phoenix, but both have long since pulled out.
To be fair, the area is growing quickly, so I would venture a guess that it could support some regional flights to Phoenix, Salt Lake, or another western hub, but that’s going to be the extent of its success.
Unfortunately, the city of LA continues to focus on this airport as a viable alternative. Last week, the city approved a plan to request proposals for service to Palmdale. The plan includes up to $5m in incentives, including some hard cash costs that could be put to better use.
Mayor Villaraigosa said “Developing new and expanded service at Southland regional airports will go a long way toward relieving congestion at Los Angeles International Airport.” Well, the proposed regional jet flights to western hubs aren’t going to do much at all to relieve LAX. A handful of daily flights is a joke, and it’s not going to solve anything. Nobody in Los Angeles wants to fly out of Palmdale.
It’s time the city’s leaders create a plan that will expand LAX to fulfill the region’s needs in the future. Though neighbors will complain, the airport has been there much longer than they have. They should have expected airport expansion and the fact that they can prevent the region’s aviation infrastructure from expanding is mind-boggling.