Aug. 10--PALMDALE -- Still not flying enough passengers in and out of Palmdale to break even, Las Vegas-based Scenic Airlines got a boost from Palmdale city government, which bought $20,000 worth of tickets.
City officials, told that the city's only airline would pull out by October if its passenger loads didn't increase, will give away the 90 round-trip tickets at a weekly downtown festival and at weekend park concerts to promote the flights to Las Vegas.
"No carrier at the airport doesn't bode well for the airport," said Mayor Jim Ledford. "This is something we can afford, and it shows we, as a community, are committed to that airline."
The airline has averaged 17 passengers a day through the first half of 2005 but needs about 21 to break even on a flight, according to city officials and Los Angeles World Airports statistics.
City officials said one of the problems with the airline had been the aircraft, a 19-seat DeHavilland Twin Otter fine for Grand Canyon sightseeing trips Scenic's original purpose but uncomfortable for regular passenger service.
Last month, Scenic switched to the Beechcraft 1900, which has a pressurized cabin.
"They anticipate with the new aircraft that they can meet their break-even point," said Danny Roberts, executive director of the city's community redevelopment agency.
City officials said they will work with Scenic and Los Angeles World Airports, which operates Palmdale Regional Airport using Air Force Plant 42's runways, to market the airline and to build awareness of its presence in the Antelope Valley.
"You have to give it time to grow," said Councilman Steve Hofbauer.
The city will give away airline tickets at Thursday Night on the Square events at Poncitlan Square and will give away both tickets and Las Vegas hotel accommodations at the Starlight concerts at the Palmdale Amphitheater at Marie Kerr Park.
Scenic began service out of Palmdale Regional Airport on Dec. 29, marking the return of airline service to the Antelope Valley after a nearly 7-year absence.
Scenic had long operated sightseeing flights but began to diversify its operations after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to include regional air service, starting with flights in and out of Ely, Nev., and Merced, Calif.
Those routes are subsidized by the federal government under a program aimed at restoring air service to communities that lost it as the result of airline deregulation.
Scenic's Palmdale service is not subsidized by the federal government, but Los Angeles World Airports is providing incentives estimated at $776,000 per year for the next three years to help the airline gain a foothold.
Commuter airlines United Express, America West and SkyWest operated out of the Palmdale Regional Airport terminal at Plant 42 in the 1990s sometimes two airlines at a time. All pulled out after failing to generate profits with their Palmdale operations. The last airline to leave was United Express, which pulled out in February 1998.