Ontario International Airport celebrates five years of local ownership
Five years ago to this day, leaders of the City of Ontario and San Bernardino County thankfully accepted ownership of Ontario International Airport and proclaimed that ONT would become a vital economic engine for the region and a safe and secure aviation gateway for millions of air travelers.
Those who believed ONT could be a viable alternative for commercial air service in the greater Los Angeles region were proven right. Airlines added new flights and destinations. Air passengers quickly realized the benefits of having easy access to a first-rate gateway closer to home. Shippers utilized ONT’s expansive facilities and cargo hubs, ideally situated in the heart of region's robust supply chain network.
ONT’s remarkable journey is the focus of a State of the Airport celebration today at the Ontario Convention Center, bringing together city and county leaders, industry executives, airline personnel and other ONT supporters, more than 350 guests in all.
“We knew on that fateful day five years ago that the combination of first-rate facilities, operations know-how and broad local support positioned us well to develop Ontario International into a premier aviation gateway and deliver the air service and amenities that sophisticated air travelers demand,” said Alan D. Wapner, Mayor pro Tem of the City of Ontario and President of the Ontario International Airport Authority (OIAA) Board of Commissioners. “Our team of dedicated professionals transformed Ontario from an airport that had in essence been forgotten or worse disregarded into a thriving low-cost, international gateway for airlines, air passengers and freight shippers alike.”
The Inland Empire airport had languished for much of a decade and eventually became the focus of a campaign to shift control from its previous owner Los Angeles World Airports, the operator of Los Angeles International Airport, to local authorities.
By August 6, 2015, the parties had reached a history-making agreement and on November 1, 2016, transferred ownership of ONT from the City of Los Angeles to a joint authority of the City of Ontario and San Bernardino County. Finally, ONT became the property and responsibility of those closest to it – the elected and appointed leaders who committed to reviving air travel in the Inland Empire, businesses which vowed to support it and the customers who placed their faith in it.
By 2018, Ontario International was one of the fastest growing airports in the U.S. And while the coronavirus pandemic reduced air travel by 90% or more at many airports, ONT has experienced the quickest recovery among airports its size and larger in California. By September, passenger volume was 97% of pre-pandemic levels with domestic travel almost fully recovered.
“We’ve proven that we can compete with larger airports in delivering a high quality, hassle-free customer experience with easy access to our passenger terminals, affordable parking, quick and efficient security screening, spacious gate areas, free and dependable Wi-Fi and dining concessions that feature popular local and national brands,” said Curt Hagman, Chairman of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors and an OIAA Commissioner.
Since taking control of ONT, the OIAA has increased the number of airlines operating at the airport by nearly 50% and almost doubled the number of nonstop destinations. Departures climbed from 403 to 460 per week while the number of passenger seats increased from 52,000 to 66,500.
In 2019, ONT welcomed more than 5.5 passengers, the highest total in more than a decade, and for the second consecutive year was the fastest growing airport in the U.S., according to Global Traveler, a leading industry publication geared to business and luxury fliers who travel extensively in the U.S. and abroad. In addition, more than $8 million was invested to rebrand and refurbish dining and retail concessions.
“In the five years since regaining local control of our operations, we’ve created teams to work with airline partners to increase routes. We’ve improved parking, added restaurants, improved infrastructure and maintenance and basically enhanced everything about the passenger experience, taking it all to a whole new level,” said Jim Bowman, an Ontario City Council member and OIAA Commissioner.
The past five years also have brought continued growth in ONT’s cargo operations, which now rank among the Top 10 in North America. Last November, Federal Express opened its new 251,000-square-foot operations center at the airport, and together with UPS, Amazon and other freight haulers processed more than 900,000 tons of incoming and outgoing cargo in 2020.
“Our strategic logistics location in Southern California makes this area an international business hub,” said Ron Loveridge, Vice President of the OIAA Board of Commissioners. “With localized control, a growing list of carriers and cargo partners, Ontario International Airport continues to increase its role as a premier passenger and logistics airport not only for California, but nationally and internationally as well.”
“It’s hard to imagine another airport, another region, which has a future as promising as ours,” said OIAA Commissioner Julia Gouw. “Ontario International Airport truly is a prized asset, in a prime location, with a customer base that continues to grow. ONT is the perfect choice for travel to and from Southern California.”
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About Ontario International Airport
Ontario International Airport (ONT) is the fastest growing airport in the United States, according to Global Traveler, a leading publication for frequent fliers. Located in the Inland Empire, ONT is approximately 35 miles east of downtown Los Angeles in the center of Southern California. It is a full-service airport which, before the coronavirus pandemic, offered nonstop commercial jet service to 26 major airports in the U.S., Mexico and Taiwan. More information is available at www.flyOntario.com. Follow @flyONT on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
About the Ontario International Airport Authority (OIAA)
The OIAA was formed in August 2012 by a Joint Powers Agreement between the City of Ontario and the County of San Bernardino to provide overall direction for the management, operations, development and marketing of ONT for the benefit of the Southern California economy and the residents of the airport's four-county catchment area. OIAA Commissioners are Ontario Mayor Pro Tem Alan D. Wapner (President), Retired Riverside Mayor Ronald O. Loveridge (Vice President), Ontario City Council Member Jim W. Bowman (Secretary), San Bernardino County Supervisor Curt Hagman (Commissioner) and retired business executive Julia Gouw (Commissioner).