AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWhicker: Clemson demonstrates that it’s tough to knock out the champThe slow start to the service highlights the continuing challenges for officials trying to regionalize air travel and ease a growing strain on LAX. United spokesman Jeff Kovick declined to comment specifically about the Palmdale market, but noted there’s a “transition period” to inform customers about a new service. “Generally speaking, we are flying where we believe our customers want to go and where we can profitably offer service,” Kovick said. The numbers haven’t discouraged officials with Los Angeles World Airports, which owns and operates the Palmdale facility as well as LAX and airports in Ontario and Van Nuys. “We feel that the new service and new airport is performing within our expectations,” said Paul Haney, LAWA deputy executive director. “Certainly the air service is getting very favorable reviews from travelers. They are happy because it keeps them off the freeway.” United Airlines’ twice-daily service between Palmdale and San Francisco has won over John Smith, who operates a Lancaster-based travel agency. He has been booking San Francisco tour packages for customers, and no longer has to make the arduous drive to Los Angeles International Airport to pick up out-of-town staffers who come to Lancaster for meetings and training. “It’s only 10 minutes to go to the airport. You don’t have to be there two hours before takeoff,” Smith said. “You can pull in 20 minutes before takeoff, park for free, walk in and get on the airplane and go.” Despite Smith’s glowing review, the 50-seat jets out of L.A./Palmdale Regional Airport have been only about one-third full since the service launched six months ago. In all, the airport has served about 10,000 passengers. LAWA forecasts that Palmdale’s passenger traffic will continue to climb and hopes to have 50 percent of the airline seats filled by June, Haney said. The goal then will be to have airline operations break even at the 18-month mark, he added. The service debuted June 7 with much fanfare and is supported by a $4.6 million incentive package put together by LAWA, the city of Palmdale and others, with about $2 million for underwriting losses incurred providing the service. Palmdale is seen as playing a key role in Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s regional airport strategy to spread Southern California’s air traffic from LAX to other facilities. LAX handles 61 million passengers a year, and Los Angeles city officials have agreed to cap airport traffic at 78 million annually even as aviation demand is expected to double in the next 20 to 30 years. United’s current traffic out of Palmdale is a mix of business and leisure travel, with about 40 percent making San Francisco their final destination and about 60 percent going on to other locations, Haney said. Passengers are primarily people who either live or work in the Antelope Valley, Santa Clarita and the surrounding High Desert area, Haney said. “Obviously in the Antelope Valley, there’s a significant government/military market, and we are very pleased that we are capturing that market with some discount government fares,” he said. [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!