Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
dwalters@sacbee.com
August 9, 2015

  • City regains ownership of Ontario International
  • But airport, once run by Los Angeles, is still struggling
  • A San Diego deal might make it work

So, Ontario is getting its airport back. What now?

The small San Bernardino County city built the airport as World War II was beginning, allowed it to be used as a military training base during the war and resumed civilian traffic afterward.

Two decades later, Ontario ceded management control to the city of Los Angeles and later turned over ownership. By and by, Los Angeles invested millions of dollars in two large new terminals, with contingency plans to build two more, replacing the decrepit, World War II-vintage facilities it inherited.

Traffic reached 7.2 million passengers in 2007, most of them via Southwest Airlines, but as recession hammered the Inland Empire, flights and passengers plummeted, the latter to as low as 4.2 million.

Ontario International’s decline has sparked years of acrimonious exchanges over the decline’s causes and effects.

Ontario blamed it on promotional neglect by the Los Angeles airport system, violating an agreement to promote regional airport use, while Los Angeles blamed it on the recession.

Ontario – the city – formed an Ontario International Airport Authority and began campaigning to resume ownership, including a lawsuit alleging mismanagement that was to go to trial this month.

Last week, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Ontario officials announced a deal that would return the airport to local ownership. But Ontario will have to reimburse Los Angeles for the money it has invested in the airport, which means it will begin business in a financial hole, with airline and passenger traffic still well below capacity.

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