Low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines announced plans Thursday to add service for the first time from Hollywood Burbank Airport, the latest sign that travel demand is beginning to recover from a yearlong pandemic slump.
The news that the Las Vegas-based carrier will add three routes out of Hollywood Burbank Airport starting in July comes less than a month after a former United Airlines executive made Burbank the launchpad for a new low-cost carrier, Avelo Airlines.
Although the number of passengers passing through U.S.-based airports is only about 60% of pre-pandemic levels, travel and tourism leaders predict that pent-up demand will result in a surge of air passengers this summer, thanks to the vaccine rollout and declining coronavirus cases.
"As we now start to see our entire country start to recover, we see travel starting to return,” Frank Miller, Hollywood Burbank Airport's executive director, said at a news conference Thursday morning.
The airport has been one of the nation's hardest hit by the pandemic, losing more than 31% of its airline seating capacity over the last year, according to an analysis by the airline data company OAG.
Frontier Airlines, which already serves Los Angeles International Airport and Ontario International Airport, will fly from Burbank to Phoenix, Las Vegas and Denver three times a week starting July 15.
Avelo Airlines was launched last month with three planes, flying to 11 small and midsize cities in California, Utah, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Colorado and Arizona.
The number of Southern Californians planning to travel for the Memorial Day holiday weekend is expected to reach 2.89 million, up 64% from last year, when COVID-19 death counts and pandemic fears began to climb, according to an annual forecast by the Auto Club of Southern California.
Hotel occupancy rates in Los Angeles County have started to recover from an average of about 50% during 2020 to more than 70% in recent weekends, according to the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board. Restaurants are also showing signs of rebounding: Online, phone and walk-in reservations in the region improved 50% in early April compared with 2020 numbers, according to OpenTable, the online reservation service.
Adam Burke, president and chief executive of the tourism board, called the news of Frontier adding service at the Burbank airport "yet another encouraging indicator that the travel industry is rebounding, which will be absolutely critical to the recovery of the overall Los Angeles economy.”
In Orange County, 12 Anaheim hotels reopened in April, five are reopening this month and two more are scheduled to reopen in June. The Hilton Anaheim, the county's largest hotel with 1,572 rooms, is expected to reopen May 20.
Universal Studios Hollywood, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park reopened in April. Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park is scheduled to open to the general public May 21.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.