September 29, 2008

Blow to Airport Regionalization

CONSIDERING the state of the economy, the cost of fuel and the loss of a federal grant, it's not a huge surprise that United Airlines decided to stop flying out of L.A./Palmdale Regional Airport in December.

Not surprising, perhaps, but truly unfortunate to the greater goal of regionalizing Los Angeles' heavy air traffic.

It was just a year ago that the major carrier decided to return to Palmdale, giving travelers in Southern California another option to the crunch of Los Angeles International Airport.

This seemed to be the most significant step toward creating a viable traveling option in Palmdale.

To its credit, Los Angeles World Airports, a department of L.A. city government, spent about $5 million on maintenance, staffing, security and marketing at Palmdale to support United's nascent service. But, despite lowering its fares, United just couldn't make its new service fly with air travelers.

This is a blow to air-traffic regionalization, but it shouldn't be its death knell. Hopefully, carriers at Burbank and Ontario will hang on.

Regionalization of air traffic is not just a good idea; it's the right way to grow air traffic in Southern California, where the main airport is already congested.

The economy will recover, and when it does, airport officials must again encourage a major air carrier to return to Palmdale.

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