Point of View
Congressman Joe Baca
Created: 08/18/2012 07:08:35 AM PDT
The genesis of Ontario Airport dates back to 1923, when a landing field was established east of Central Avenue on land leased from the Union Pacific Railroad. Throughout its storied history, the airport has had many shining moments. In 1974, Ontario was the only Inland airport to host the Concorde supersonic aircraft as it made its promotional around-the-world flights in October of that year. In 1998, the airport’s beautiful new terminal complex opened.
But from its once glorious past, Ontario is now struggling through a very difficult present. The total number of airport passengers has dropped by over 36 percent in the last five years, from 7.2 million passengers in 2007 to 4.5 million passengers in 2011. The loss in passengers traveling through our airport has led to a subsequent shortfall in business and government revenues, compounding the already struggling jobs market in the Inland Empire.
Since 2005, only one airport in the United States, Cincinnati, has suffered a greater percentage decline in number of passengers. What has caused this massive drop in air traffic at Ontario? The economic downturn and the housing crisis in the Inland Empire certainly played a role in passenger decline. But another significant factor in the weakening of our airport has been mismanagement on the part of Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), which assumed ownership of Ontario in 1985.
Unfortunately, in recent years LAWA has done little to better market our airport or to bring down costs so we can attract more airlines to fly in and out of Ontario regularly. Just recently, Allegiant Air – which pulled its flights from LAX due to a lack of counter space – said it would consider redirecting its flights to Ontario if operation costs were lower.
Further development of unused land on airport property would help to solve the problem of high operating costs. Additional revenues resulting from airport land leases would result in less costs being passed on to airlines, leading to additional flight traffic. Yet LAWA has taken virtually no steps to increase development, and instead has worked to incentivize business opportunities at LAX while minimizing them at Ontario.
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