Celebrating five years since the Ontario International Airport broke free from Los Angeles, officials on Monday, November 1, boasted that the uninhibited Inland Empire Airport has become a viable option for more travelers and an economic engine for the region.
About 350 representatives of cities, counties, airports, airlines and states gathered in the Ontario Convention Center to mark the anniversary, where they heard how the independent airport increased passenger and freight traffic, developed new sources of revenue and plowed federal funding for infrastructure improvements to runways and runways. .
Airport officials gave a brief history lesson, looking back at the past and the actions of the new administration over the past five years.
After a seven-year campaign complete with bumper stickers that read “Set Ontario Free,” Ontario Airport cut all ties to Los Angeles World Airports on November 1, 2016, transferring ownership to a two-headed, joint governing body of the city of Ontario and San Bernardino County.
The Ontario International Airport Authority reduced spending, raised cash by renting vacant land to cargo companies, added new terminal concessions that included a first-ever ramen dispensation vending machine, increased parking revenue and brought police and fire in Ontario to handle public safety, Alan Wapner explained , Ontario City Councilor and President of the OIAA Board of Commissioners.
“There is not a single person in this room who is not being touched in any way by the airport,” he said from a ballroom. “The economic impact is in the billions of dollars, with hundreds of thousands of jobs depending on our airport.”
San Bernardino County Supervisor Curt Hagman, speaking on video, said: “There is no greater economic engine for the Inland Empire than Ontario International Airport.”
Over the past five years, the number of airlines operating at ONT has increased by 50%, as has the number of non-stop destinations, including service to Hawaii, added earlier this year. The total number of departures increased from 403 to 460 per week, while the number of passenger seats increased from 52,000 to 66,500, the airport reported.
In 2019, the airport moved 5.5 passengers – a maximum of 10 years – and was named the fastest growing airport in the United States by Global Traveler, an industry publication.
Air passenger volume fell by 90% from March 2020 and by 50% by the end of the year when the coronavirus pandemic hit. However, ONT has experienced steady growth since then and is the fastest recovered airport in the country, Wapner said.
In September 2021, passenger volume reached 97% of pre-pandemic levels, with the airport receiving 453,000 air passengers, more than double the September 2020 volume of 195,000, officials reported.
As the pandemic eases and more flights are added, passengers find Ontario airport more convenient than other airports, officials said.
“It’s the same reason that attracted people before the pandemic: convenience,” Wapner said in an earlier interview. “It’s the nearest airport for many people. They can easily find parking. Plus now we have more affordable prices.”
Wapner noted the return of Jet Blue, several flights from Southwest Airlines and new international flights to Mexico and El Salvador have boosted air traffic. China Airlines restarts flights to Taiwan, though less frequent than pre-pandemics, is another nod to the slow addition of international flights, Wapner said.
Air freight has also been a success story. The airport will have its second-best air freight year by December 31, he said, next after 2020, when online ordering rose sharply and freight volumes rose by 20%.
Freight hubs accounted for $ 1.5 billion in business in the five years between 2016-2021, doubling air freight volumes, officials said. Amazon and its cargo airline, Prime Air, plus FedEx Express and UPS have all experienced growth in air freight at the airport, making ONT the first in the United States for outbound cargo shipments.
Wapner said with the jam-up of ships in the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach that more companies are moving goods by plane, and ONT can benefit from that.
“When we started, there was no Inland Empire. Now it’s time for us to step up and really become that empire,” Wapner said.
He said the airport is lagging behind with public transportation links, and he mentioned a project planned by The Boring Co. and the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority, which will get passengers on high-speed electric vehicles traveling in an underground tunnel between the airport and Rancho Cucamonga Metrolink Station.
He also said the airport is looking at prototypes of electric planes to reduce their CO2 footprint. The airport is working to convert gasoline and diesel fuel-powered vehicles into natural gas and battery electric, he said.
Atif Elkadi, ONT’s Deputy CEO, who supports the event, said relations with carriers, hotels, Omnitrans, SBCTA and new concessionaires such as Dunkin Donuts were in focus for the five-year construction period.
The only obstacle to growth is the difficulty concessionaires have in finding people to fill job openings, Wapner said. The same goes for filling seats for pilots and flight attendants, he said.
“This feels like the end of the first chapter,” Elkadi said, “and we’re starting Chapter 2.”