Ridership At Airport Dips After Ontario Reclaims It

Ontario’s reassertion of its ownership rights at Ontario International Airport did not inspire local residents to increase their use of the aerodrome in the first month of 2016, according to the latest released passenger traffic figures.
In fact, 934 fewer people passed through the airport’s gates this January than in January 2015.
According to Los Angeles World Airports, the corporate entity that manages and operates Los Angeles International Airport, Van Nuys Airport and Ontario Airport for the City of Los Angeles, some 312,413 passengers boarded planes or disembarked from them in January. That compares to 313,347 in January 2015.
On December 22, 2015, the Ontario City Council, Ontario International Airport Authority and Los Angeles World Airports’ board of airport commissioners executed a settlement agreement between the City of Los Angeles and the Ontario-dominated Ontario International Airport Authority effectuating the return of Ontario Airport to local control.
The settlement agreement rescinded the 1967 agreement that gave control of the airport to Los Angeles, and the 1985 agreement transferring ownership to Los Angeles.
Under Los Angeles’s ownership and direction, ridership at Ontario airport zoomed from less than 200,000 per year in 1967 to 7.2 million in 2007, accompanied by some $550 million in improvements to the airport, including the paving of its gravel parking lot, the laying down of a second and entirely new east-to-west runway over its obsolete northeast-to-southwest landing strip, and modernization of its existing east-to-west runway, including the widening of taxiways and the addition of storm drains. Ontario Airport’s landing and take-off paths were converted, under Los Angeles’s stewardship, into the longest such civilian facility in Southern California, and Los Angeles erected a state-of-the-art control tower, and constructed two ultra-modern terminals at a cost of $270 million, augmented with a world class concourse.
Beginning in 2008, passenger traffic at the airport began a steep decline, dropping to 3.9 million in 2013.
Four years ago, Ontario city officials, led by Councilman Alan Wapner, launched what would become an extremely acrimonious effort to take back control of the airport from the megalopolis to the west. Initially, Ontario officials suggested that Los Angeles should simply deed the airport back to Ontario as a public benefit transfer, propounding that the airport had no value as marketable real estate. When Los Angeles balked at that request, Ontario escalated the issue into a war of words in which it was suggested that Los Angeles World Airports was purposefully mismanaging the facility in a deliberate effort to harm the Inland Empire’s economy. In 2013, just prior to then-Los Angeles Mayor Anthony Villaraigosa leaving office, Ontario sued Los Angeles, demanding the return of the airport. Last summer, just before that suit was scheduled to go to trial in the Riverside courtroom of Judge Gloria Trask, a tentative agreement to transfer the airport back to Ontario was reached, whereby Ontario agreed to put up $150 million for the airport, provide another $60 million to purchase assets technically belonging to Los Angeles World Airports that are in place at Ontario Airport and which are crucial or indispensable to its operations, and take on bonded indebtedness of roughly $50 million related to the airport that was formerly being debt serviced by Los Angeles.
Even before the transfer, overall passenger traffic at Ontario Airport had been steadily climbing, an indicator that Ontario’s charge that Los Angeles was running the facility into the ground was merely a rhetorical flourish. Los Angeles consistently maintained that the downturn in numbers at Ontario Airport had been a function of the recession that hit the nation, state and region beginning in late 2007 and which lingered into 2013.
In 2015, passenger traffic at Ontario Airport was up nearly 2 percent, with a total of 4.2 million travelers flying in and out of the airport, compared to the 4.1 million travelers in 2014.
At present, Los Angeles World Airports continues to oversee airport operations at Ontario Airport. Operational control of the airport will pass on to the Ontario International Airport Authority, which is headed by a five member board which includes four members connected to the City of Ontario, later this year, displacing Los Angeles World Airports.

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