U.S. Rep. Joe Baca

By Art Marroquin, Staff Writer
Created: 12/01/2011 02:57:14 PM PST

A reported shortage of U.S. Customs and Border Protection staffers at Los Angeles International Airport has led a couple of regional lawmakers to push for more customs agents at airports, including L.A./Ontario International Airport.

The report by the Torrance-based Daily Breeze, a sister newspaper of the Daily Bulletin, indicated international airline passengers at LAX have to wait up to three hours for federal inspections.

The lines at LAX often get so backed up that passengers are forced to wait on their planes, even if their flights arrived on time, according to an officials from Los Angeles World Airports, which operates ONT and LAX.

Rep. Joe Baca, D-San Bernardino, said Congress must act swiftly on hiring more customs agents, especially at ONT.

“So we can increase the number of international flights originating in the Inland Empire,” said Baca, who represents the 43rd District, which includes Ontario.

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

“More air traffic at Ontario International Airport means new economic activity for our area, and additional local tax revenues that are tied to the use of jet fuel,” Baca said.

“If we are not proactive on this front, we will continue to miss out on jobs.”

Through October, more than 3.7 million passengers flew in and out of ONT this year, which 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.

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