Liset Márquez, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
Created: 12/15/2011 04:30:05 PM PST

Los Angeles World Airports officials once again may consider closing a terminal at LA/Ontario International Airport as a way to save money in the face of rapidly declining passenger traffic.

Costs for terminal maintenance and operating two sets of baggage handling systems are becoming burdensome as fewer flights and travelers pass through the airport, said Gina Marie Lindsey, executive director of LAWA, the city agency that operates Los Angeles International and Ontario airports.

With no immediate economic recovery in sight, “we’re looking at several years of unhappy traffic out there,” Lindsey told the Board of Airport Commissioners.

During the hour-long presentation, board members were also provided with some suggestions for increasing traffic, which included offering incentives.

LAWA officials continue to cite external, economic factors plaguing the airline industry for ONT’s plummet in passenger traffic. During the special meeting on Thursday, Board of Airport Commissioners were updated on recent efforts to redistribute air traffic between ONT and Los Angeles International Airport, which are both operated by LAWA.

“Traffic continues to decline (at ONT), it’s not as sharp as years past but it’s a steady decline,” said Mark Thorpe, director of air service marketing for the agency.

Officials spent most of the hour discussing the current conditions in the industry.

Two proposals that LAWA officials had presented in years past as possible solutions for the downward trend at ONT don’t now seem “economically viable.”

“Any solutions we discuss are dependent on the recovery in the Inland Empire,” Thorpe said.

In October 2009, LAWA officials touted the work done by consultant Peggy Ducey, who had presented the board with an outline of a plan to redistribute air traffic from LAX to regional airports like Ontario.

The plan would look at ways to drive down costs at the Ontario airport while offering incentives to bring in new air carriers and passengers.

The key to developing a sustainable market would have been to tap into Disneyland’s tourists as well as Orange County and Inland Empire residents in a way that hasn’t been done before. Ducey was supposed to spend six months developing ideas on funding and how to implement the plan. Airport officials had not discussed her plan until Thursday’s special meeting.

“The solutions we discussed in the past don’t work in the current economic environment,” Thorpe said.

The ideas now would have to take into consideration the current industry landscape, he said.

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