Liset Marquez, Staff Writer
Posted: 08/05/2013 10:47:26 PM PDT
Updated: 08/05/2013 11:56:42 PM PDT

ONTARIO — The ongoing downward spiral of passenger loss at LA/Ontario International Airport could reach a point where it can become impossible for the medium-hub facility to regain the traffic, aviation expert Bob Hazel told the Ontario International Airport Authority on Monday.

Decline in passenger activity this year has already lead to $60 million in annual economic impact as well as 1,100 jobs lost to the region.

Without intervention, ONT is likely to continue to struggle just to maintain its current uncompetitive airport charges, he said.

If the trends continue, annual traffic will fall below two million passengers by 2020. It would take at least $10 million to turn around the cost structure as well as devote substantial resources to market ONT and bring in low-cost carriers, said Hazel, a partner with Oliver Wyman, the nation’s largest aviation consulting firm.

“The sooner we can get the costs down to a competitive level and start running this airport the way it is supposed to be run, then we can stop the downward cycle.” Hazel said. “Stopping the downward cycle would be major progress.”

Hazel and the five-member commission — which is aiming to take back local control of ONT from Los Angeles World Airports — had a more than an hour-long discussion Monday on the airport’s activity between 2010 and the present. LAWA manages ONT, Los Angeles International Airport and Van Nuys.

The basis of the discussion was the findings of the 16-page report, “Accelerating Passenger Declines Imperil Future Recovery,” by the consulting firm. The report found it would make it harder to attract new service as well deter more passengers from using the airport.

Hazel even pointed out that LAWA’s own consultant firm has admitted that a “game-changer” is necessary to turn around the decline.

It would also require the full support of the business community and a decision from the public to voluntarily fly out of ONT rather than choosing LAX, he said.

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