From the L.A. Times: “Hoping to reverse a dramatic loss of airline passengers, Ontario city officials on Tuesday unveiled a proposal to wrest control of struggling LA/Ontario International Airport from Los Angeles, which, they say, has driven away air carriers by raising costs and failing to promote the facility … City officials say their proposal is necessary to stop the dramatic decline of LA/Ontario, which used to be one of the fastest-growing regional airports in the country. From 2007 to 2009, the number of passengers dropped almost a third from about 7.2 million to 4.9 million — amid the recession — and flight schedules indicate that air carriers plan to reduce service 8% further by the end of this year … ”
Ontario Mayor Pro Tem Alan D. Wapner, for whom I have a lot of respect, makes a good argument for L.A. City Hall to sell Ontario International Airport back to the locals. From his L.A. Times Op Ed: “It’s always been an oddity that L.A./ Ontario International Airport (ONT) — located 35 miles east of downtown Los Angeles in San Bernardino County — has been operated by Los Angeles. That arrangement worked well for more than 40 years. But it doesn’t now, and that must be fixed for the good of the entire region. While other secondary airports in Southern California have rebounded from 9/11, weathered the recession and increased market share, ONT has fallen on hard times. Today, it operates at passenger traffic levels not seen in nearly a quarter-century, and its market share continues to decline. As a result, the city of Ontario feels strongly that the success of ONT as an integral part of Southern California’s airport system requires that local control be restored …”
Here’s my story on this greatly under-covered topic from the now-defunct L.A. CityBeat weekly from six years ago. “Thirty-six years ago, during the money-loathing Summer of Love, Los Angeles got control of the air at a bead-like price. For $1.2-million and future concessions, the city bought a postage-stamp airport in the dusty flatlands of the Inland Empire in the era before the subdivisions and chain-malls invaded. Though dry in detail, if not colonial in result, the 1967-transaction provided each side with something immediately useful. Los Angeles International Airport secured a backup landing strip for those nights coastal fog (or smog) socked in its runways. Ontario inherited a strapping big-city patriarch that could lure commercial jetliners to the scruffy, San Bernardino County outpost while chasing federal dollars to expand it. Ontario’s airfield was barely more than parched earth and booster dreams when L.A. came along. It had taken World War II training needs to convert the dirt runways there to concrete, and defense contractors after that to bulk up the facilities. The first passenger terminal, one converted from a hybrid chapel-theater-canteen, didn’t rise until the 1960s. It was bush league at best. Today you can relegate all that to the scrapbooks …”
You decide, after digesting the multi-billion dollar budget deficits that show no sign of letup, whether L.A. taxpayers should hold on to this foreign asset.