June 19, 2008

Palmdale to Get More San Francisco Flights

By Karen Maeshiro

PALMDALE -- Beginning Sept. 3, United Airlines will add two more daily flights between Palmdale and San Francisco in a bid to lure more people to use the Palmdale airport.

Commercial flights -- two per day -- resumed at the L.A./ Palmdale Regional Airport a year ago, but flights on average have been less than one-third full.

The slow start to the service in Palmdale highlights the continuing challenges for officials trying to spread air traffic across the region to ease bottlenecks at Los Angeles International Airport.

Instead of using 50-seat jets, United will begin using 30-seat turboprop airplanes, which are more fuel-efficient and cheaper to operate.

"I think it's more cost-efficient. It gives United a better platform to operate from," Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford said. "The jets were costly, and only two trips didn't serve our market as well as four trips will."

The change will provide what surveyed passengers said they wanted, more flights, said Harold Johnson, spokesman for Los Angeles World Airports, which operates the Palmdale airport.

"It will also make it easier for the business and military people to make connecting flights through San Francisco," Johnson said.

United spokesman Jeff Kovick said the airline is always evaluating where and when it offers service, based on what customers say.

"One of the things we hear from customers is a preference for more frequent flights that can better meet their personal schedules," Kovick said.

The new service will use Embraer-120 aircraft, a 30-seat, pressurized twin-turboprop, officials said, adding that the increased number of flights will provide access to 35 connecting markets, more than twice the current number.

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