China Airlines Flights Out Of And To Ontario To Commence In Spring 2018

As early as March of next year China Airlines will launch nonstop service between Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport and Ontario International Airport.
“Today’s development is a monumental step in Ontario International Airport’s evolution toward becoming just the second trans-oceanic gateway airport in the history of Southern California, and equally impressive is that it occurred within a year of the airport’s transition to local control,” said Ontario City Councilman and Ontario International Airport Authority President Alan Wapner.
Wapner’s reference was to the November 2, 2016 transfer of ownership and management authority over Ontario Airport to the Ontario-dominated airport authority, which came 49 years after Ontario entered into a joint operating agreement with the City of Los Angeles that essentially turned control of the facility over to Los Angeles in 1967. After all of the criteria and milestones in the joint operating agreement were met, the Ontario City Council in 1985, with then-mayor Robert Ellingwood absent, voted to deed the airport and its property to the City of Los Angeles. For the next 22 years, the airport’s operations expanded under Los Angeles’ stewardship. With the economic downturn that gripped the nation, state and region in 2007, ridership at the airport dropped off significantly from 7.2 million passengers passing through the aerodrome’s gates in 2007 to 4.1 million in 2013. Ontario filed suit against Los Angeles and the corporate affiliate it used to run its airports, Los Angeles World Airports, in June 2013, seeking to recover ownership of the airport. Just prior to the lawsuit going to trial in August 2015, Los Angeles agreed to return the airport to the Ontario International Airport Authority, which had been set up by the City of Ontario in 2012, in accordance with Ontario putting up $150 million for the airport, providing $60 million to purchase assets technically belonging to Los Angeles World Airports that were in place at Ontario Airport and which are crucial or indispensable to its operations, and agreeing to assume roughly $60 million bonded indebtedness relating to the airport.
Ontario officials, in particular Wapner, who spearheaded the move to have Ontario reassert control over the airport, have considered themselves under the gun to see ridership move toward the historical high traffic point of 2007 to justify the effort they took to get the airport returned from L.A. There has been a modest move in that direction, although the city has not entirely overcome the suggestions of some that Los Angeles – one of the nation’s largest and most influential cities and which enjoys control over Los Angeles International Airport – had far greater leverage with both domestic and international airlines than does Ontario. Indeed, in 1967, when Los Angeles took over management of the airport, 200,000 passengers passed through Ontario Airport’s gates. 40 years later, ridership at the airport had increased by 3,500 percent. No one believes Ontario can replicate anything approaching that number.
Another issue is the airport’s status as an international facility. Though the airport can boast flights to Mexico offered by both AeroMexico and Volaris, flights are relatively limited, with four flights weekly to Mexico via AeroMexico and two flights weekly via Volaris. By comparison to most true international airports, that is an anemic showing.
In June 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping flew into Ontario International Airport for a summit with then-President Barack Obama. That raised hopes that some of the 20 airlines that are based in the People’s Republic of China would initiate regular direct flights to and from Ontario International Airport. That has not occurred.
Ontario officials, in conjunction with China Airlines, which is a Taiwanese concern, have thrown down the gauntlet, establishing a direct connection between Ontario International Airport and Taoyuan International Airport, where China Airlines has its corporate headquarters. It remains to be seen whether China Airlines’ decision to fly into Ontario International Airport will prompt an airline or airlines based in the People’s Republic of China to do the same.
The chairman of China Airlines, Nuan-Hsuan Ho, said his company chose Ontario International Airport as a destination because of its ability to reach 10 million passengers in the Southern California region to match Taoyuan International, which serves as the major international gateway airport for the New Taipei–Keelung–Taoyuan City metro area, where more than 9 million live. He said Ontario presents the further advantage of having less intensive traffic congestion than Los Angeles.
Ontario Mayor Paul Leon, who was vacationing in Hawaii when Ho made the announcement in Ontario last week, told the Sentinel, “Word that this was possible came a couple of months ago. The future looks bright and wide open. I had scheduled this vacation for quite some time and I am sorry I was not able to be there when the announcement was made. I can say, though, this is good for all of us and I am glad to see we are getting the international airport to take flight.”      –Mark Gutglueck

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