Liset Márquez, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
Created: 11/23/2011 06:46:05 PM PST

ONTARIO – New traffic figures released for LA/Ontario International Airport have officials bracing for a dismal 2012.

October traffic at the airport dropped 12 percent from the number of passengers traveling through the facility in October 2010.

It is the first time in two years the airport has experienced a double-digit drop in passenger traffic.

Based on the new figures, one airport official expects a steeper downturn in ridership in the next 12 months.

“For the next year, passenger traffic is going to drop precipitously, and ONT traffic may drop well under 4 million passengers a year,” said Mark Thorpe, director of air service marketing for Los Angeles World Airports.

The airport hasn’t recorded ridership totals below 4 million passengers since the early 1980s.

Last year, 4.8 million travelers passed through ONT. At that point, traffic hadn’t been so low since the 1980s.

Since 2007, the peak of travel at ONT, the facility has lost more than 40 percent of its seat capacity, Thorpe said. Seat capacity is a measure of the number of planes flown at the airport and the airline seats that are available.

Through October, the more than 3.7 million passengers who flew in and out of ONT represented a 6.5 percent decline in traffic when compared to the same nine months in 2010.

The sharp decrease is in part due to a reduction of 153 flights at ONT since last October.

With fewer flights being offered, there has been a 7,600-seat capacity reduction, Thorpe said.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles International Airport gained 1,157 flights and an increase of almost 92,000 seats in the year.

LAWA manages both airports as well as Van Nuys Airport.

“For Ontario, that’s a big deal,” Thorpe said. “It makes the schedule less attractive to the business traveler.”

Ontario Councilman Alan Wapner said LAWA has not kept its promise to distribute air traffic between all of its regional airports.

“The double digit figures plainly show L.A.’s supposed regionalization plan has failed miserably,” Wapner said.

Wapner said he believes in the regionalization effort only if LAWA would focus some resources toward it.

“It’s going to take a change in the way its being operated,” Wapner said. “These numbers speak for themselves.”

To read entire story, click here.