Los Angeles Signals Willingness To Sell Airport To Ontario At The Right Price

(December 21)   The Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners on December 17 approved a protocol for returning ownership and operational control of Ontario International Airport back to the city of Ontario and the joint powers authority Ontario recently created with the county of San Bernardino to manage the airport.
In 1967, the city of Ontario and the city of Los Angeles entered into an agreement to have the Los Angeles Department of Airports run the airport, which at that time had only two airlines flying two out-of-state flights per day and yearly passenger traffic of around 200,000. Los Angeles used its control over gate access at Los Angeles International to induce airlines to fly into and out of Ontario and the use of Ontario Airport increased dramatically. In 1985, after Los Angeles and its Department of Airports had met all of the conditions laid out in the original agreement between the two cities, Ontario deeded the airport to Los Angeles for no consideration. Los Angeles created an entity, Los Angeles World Airports, to manage and operate the several airports Los Angeles owned, including Los Angeles International, Ontario International, Long Beach Airport, Burbank Airport and Palmdale Airport.  Over the years, under Los Angeles’ and Los Angeles World Airports’ management, over $500 million worth of improvements were made to Ontario International, including the construction of two modern terminals, a new runway, improvements to the existing runway, improvements to the concourse and parking lot and ground access upgrades. In 2007, use of Ontario Airport peaked, with 7.2 million passengers passing through its gates. Since that time, however, travel through the airport has sharply declined, accompanied by a souring of relations between Ontario city officials and those with Los Angeles World Airports.
The airport still provides commercial service to 14 major U.S. cities and through service to many international destinations, with approximately 114 daily flights. At present the airport has only 7 carriers, fewer than half the number of airlines that operated out of the facility during its heyday.
Ontario officials have suggested that the downturn in the use of Ontario International has come about in large part because Los Angeles and Los Angeles World Airports are purposefully mismanaging Ontario Airport to increase passenger traffic at Los Angeles International. Ontario has initiated a campaign which has lambasted Los Angeles World Airports and its management practices at Ontario International in an effort to pressure Los Angeles to redeed the airport back to Ontario.
On October 10, 2012, the Los Angeles City Council instructed its city administrative officer, Miguel Santana, to facilitate negotiations between Los Angeles World Airports, the city of Ontario, the county of San Bernardino, the Ontario International Airport Authority (OIAA), and other primary stakeholders to determine the most effective and appropriate ownership and management alternative for Ontario International Airport and the sale value of the airport. The Los Angeles City Council also instructed LAWA to develop a set of guiding principles to assist with analyzing and pursuing alternative management and governance structures.
The Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners has not, to date, endorsed any sale of Ontario International Airport but favors actions consistent with the recommendations of the Los Angeles city administrator’s office and the Los Angeles City Council.
“The guiding concepts and principles are an initial roadmap for the terms of divesting Ontario International,” said Gina Marie Lindsey, Los Angeles World Airport’s executive director.  “It’s a solid place to start.”
The resolution outlines requirements for the future stewardship of the airport, protection of Los Angeles World Airports’ financial interests and city of Los Angeles employees at the airport, and incremental steps to the sale process. The city of Los Angeles is asking for all of these issues to be addressed in a letter of intent between the agency and the Ontario International Airport Authority to be delivered by April 1, 2013. It is anticipated the letter will establish the terms that would result in Los Angeles World Airports selling the airport to the Ontario International Airport Authority, which counts as its joint powers members the city of Ontario and the county of San Bernardino.
In the guiding concepts and principles document released by Los Angeles World Airports, protection of Los Angeles World Airports’ financial interests is defined as Ontario and the Ontario International Airport Authority offering to purchase the airport at a price equal to what another entity is willing to pay for the facility.
“Divesture of Ontario International Airport should not result in forgone value to Los Angeles World Airports when compared with divesting to another party or divesting at another time in the future,” the document states.
Moreover, the document makes clear that the new owner “must provide reasonable assurance that Ontario International Airport will continue to operate as a commercial service airport free of operating restrictions in the future” and that current Los Angeles city employees working at the airport retain their positions. “The parties shall make all reasonable efforts to ensure that any adverse effects of divestiture on current city employees are minimized,” the document states. Since 2008, Los Angeles World Airports has reduced the number of employees at Ontario Airport from 430 to 245.

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