It was another year of declining traffic for the 25 largest airlines in Los Angeles County, with 3.8 million fewer passengers in 2002 over the year earlier. The 25 largest airlines accounted for 89 percent of total L.A. County passenger traffic, holding steady from 2001.

Declines at Los Angeles International Airport fueled the drop, with a 12 percent decrease in overall traffic, to 56.2 million passengers in 2002 from 61.6 million a year earlier.

Anchored by discount heavyweights Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways, smaller airports at Long Beach and Burbank fared better.

With the arrival of JetBlue, Long Beach Airport more than doubled its passenger traffic to 1.5 million in 2002. JetBlue accounted for 55 percent of Long Beach's total passenger traffic last year. Debuting at No. 17, the carrier increased its passenger volume 10 fold last year, rocketing to 792,591 passengers from 79,049 in 2001.

Burbank Airport also saw a 3 percent increase in passenger volume, to 4.6 million in 2002. Burbank's dominant airline, Southwest, increased traffic by 2.8 percent to 3.2 million for the year.

Nicole Taylor


United Airlines

United continued to see its L.A. County passenger load drop in 2002, shedding 2.9 million people in 2002 to 10.4 million, while No. 2 Southwest held steady. As a result, with fewer than 400,000 passengers separating United and Southwest, the long-time market leader is in danger of losing the top spot.

United saw a decrease in passenger volume at Los Angeles International and Long Beach airports and at Ontario Airport in San Bernardino County.

The bulk of United's L.A. County traffic comes through LAX, with 9.9 million passengers in 2002 and 110 flights in and out of the airport daily. Flight levels are up from the immediate post-Sept. 11 levels, but still trail the 190-flight pre-attack volume.

Jill Sheffield, managing director of sales, attributes the decrease in passenger numbers to a reduction in schedule, but says that the load factor per plane has been high.

"It was a tough spring with the war and SARS, but in June business rebounded in the Pacific as well as domestically," said Sheffield.

United's parent company, UAL Inc., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December when it was unable to meet debt obligations. The company estimated it would take 18 months to emerge from bankruptcy.

Nicole Taylor

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