LAWA Uses Ad To Taunt Ontario

(November 9)    In what came across as an aggravated insult, Los Angeles International Airport officials on November 5 signaled further disregard of the diminishing passenger traffic at Ontario Airport, with one major carrier advertising direct flights out of Los Angeles International to the popular winter vacation destination of Aspen in Ontario’s hometown newspaper.
On the same day that American Airlines and American Eagle began running the ad on the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin’s website along with a link that allowed Daily Bulletin readers to click and book reservations, the newspaper ran an article headlined in its on-line version, “Ontario airport passenger traffic to continue downward.”
The article, authored by Daily Bulletin staff writer Liset Marquez, reported that Robert Hazel of Oliver Wyman,  a global management consulting firm, had projected that Ontario International Airport flight schedules through April indicate the airport will have 6 percent fewer seats available and that passenger traffic in all of 2012 is anticipated to decline 5.5 percent from last year.
Passenger traffic at Ontario International Airport has been in severe decline since 2007, when the number of those flying into and out of the airport reached an all-time high of 7.2 million. But with the downscaling of the economy and other factors, passenger traffic has lapsed to 4.6 million per year.
In the meantime, Ontario officials have blamed the entity that runs Ontario Airport, Los Angeles World Airports, for deliberately mismanaging the facility as part of a ploy to increase use at Los Angeles International Airport, which is also run by Los Angeles World Airports. Ontario officials maintain that the decline in passenger traffic at Ontario International has damaged the local economy. They are pushing to have the city of Los Angeles deed Ontario Airport back to the city of Ontario.
In 1967, the city of Ontario entered into a joint powers authority arrangement with the city of Los Angeles to allow the larger city to operate Ontario Airport, which at that time boasted fewer than 200,000 passengers per year. Los Angeles was able to use the leverage it possessed to control gate positions at Los Angeles International Airport to induce airlines to increase the number of flights into and out of Ontario. Simultaneously, Los Angeles and its department of airports, which today functions in conjunction with the Los Angeles World Airports non-profit corporation to operate the four airports Los Angeles owns, embarked on a series of improvements to Ontario International Airport, which to date represent an undertaking costing in excess of $550 million.
In 1985, after Los Angeles had met all of the requirements spelled out in the original 1967 joint powers agreement, the city of Ontario in accordance with that agreement deeded Ontario Airport to the city of Los Angeles for no consideration.
Ontario officials have pushed forward with their contention that the city of Los Angeles is exploiting its ownership of Ontario Airport to the benefit of Los Angeles International Airport, which has undergone extensive renovations and improvements in recent years. Los Angeles’s action, according to Ontario officials, has redounded to the detriment of Ontario International Airport, Ontario and the Inland Empire. Ontario’s leadership has publicly suggested that Los Angeles should simply redeed the airport back to Ontario. That suggestion was accompanied by statements to the effect that the airport, as a public benefit property, has no value as real estate. Privately, however, Ontario officials made a confidential offer to purchase the airport for $50 million and an assumption of $71 million in bond debt related to financing for improvements that had been made to the airport and another $125 million to repay Los Angeles for passenger facilities charges collected at Los Angeles International Airport that were used to make improvements at Ontario Airport.  The existence of that offer became public, however, damaging the credibility of Ontario officials and their earlier insistence that the airport has no value in terms of a sale.
Unfazed by that blow to their prestige, Ontario city officials formed with the county of San Bernardino another joint powers agency, the Ontario International Airport Authority, intended to serve as the entity that will manage the aerodrome once it is wrested away from Los Angeles.
Los Angeles officials, meanwhile, have been offended by Ontario’s aggressive efforts and what Los Angeles World Airport officials maintain are misrepresentations about how the airport is being operated. Los Angeles officials reject Ontario officials’ contentions that factors exclusively under Los Angeles World Airports’ control, including higher per enplaned passenger fees charged by Los Angeles World Airports at Ontario than at other airports, are solely responsible for the passenger reductions in Ontario. They point out that they offered to allow Ontario to undertake the marketing of Ontario International Airport after Ontario officials asserted Los Angeles was neglecting the airport in this regard. Los Angeles maintains that the long-sputtering economy accounts for the diminution of ridership out of and into Ontario. They have expressed doubt that Ontario has the means, skill, expertise or the staffing to actually manage an airport, let alone bring it back to profitability. They maintain the airport will recover when the economy does.
Los Angeles officials have scoffed at Ontario’s $246 million offer for the airport, maintaining publicly that they are not prepared to accept anything less than the $550 million expended to put in improvements at the airport since 1967, although there are contradictory indications Los Angeles will accept $450 million for the airport.
This week the on-line advertisement that ran on the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin’s website was widely seen as Los Angeles thumbing its nose at Ontario officials. Ontario does not offer similar frequent nonstop flights to Colorado at the height of the winter skiing season. The presence of the ad in the Daily Bulletin was particularly galling, since the Daily Bulletin has been highly supportive of Ontario’s efforts to win the airport back, providing plenty of coverage of Ontario officials’ assertions of the mismanagement of Ontario Airport at the hands of what Ontario’s politicians have characterized as greedy, duplicitous and Chauvinistic Los Angeles officials.

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