SOCAL Airport Travel Up

Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Airports recover in a big way
Passenger traffic at Ontario, Palm Springs at record levels
The Riverside (CA) Press-Enterprise

More passengers traveled through Inland airports during the first quarter of 2005 than in any previous year, providing further gains on a two-year-old recovery in air travel. Passenger traffic through Ontario International Airport grew 3.77 percent for the quarter and 4.53 percent in March, marking the 14th consecutive month that the airport has seen more passengers than the previous year.

“I think overall for the traveling public, these are halcyon days in that there’s a lot of competition keeping fares down,” said Mark Thorpe, marketing director for Ontario International Airport.

According to reports from the Federal Aviation Administration and industry experts, low fares have triggered a broad increase in air travel nationwide. An FAA forecast released in December predicts that passenger volumes will return to pre 9/11 levels this year for the first time.

For Ontario International, which had nearly 7 million passengers in 2004, the first quarter of the year is showing growth on top of growth. The airport saw 1.63 million passengers in the first three months of this year, putting it 30,000 ahead of its best first quarter performance.

Palm Springs International Airport is on a similar tack. The desert airport reported 514,628 passengers through the first three months of 2005, an increase of 4.88 percent over 2004. Palm Springs has set a new monthly record for passengers in 11 of the past 12 months.

Bryant Francis, marketing director for Palm Springs International, said the increase stems more from fuller planes than new service. However, the airport is scheduled to get more year-round flights as the winter tourism rush quiets down in the desert. Francis said seasonal routes to Sacramento would continue to the summer. The airport will also get additional flights to Denver and Salt Lake City.

In Ontario, the passenger increases are set against a backdrop of greater marketing efforts to grow the airport. Los Angeles World Airports, the Los Angeles city agency that owns Ontario along with LAX and airports in Palmdale and Van Nuys, approved a second round of spending to advertise Ontario International this year.

Thorpe said the agency would spend $1.2 million this year in an advertising campaign meant to paint Ontario International Airport as a convenient alternative to LAX.

Renee Fraser, CEO of Fraser Communications, the advertising agency tabbed to develop the campaign, said a similar 2004 effort rated well in follow-up research.

The marketing campaign this year includes ads on 15 radio stations, including three Spanish-language stations, print media and online ads meant to steer travelers on sites such as toward Ontario.

Passengers using Ontario International could see delays during the next year due to runway construction project that will tear down one of Ontario’s two strips.

Maria Tesoro-Fermin, a spokeswoman for Ontario International Airport, said some minor or sporadic delays could come up during periods of heavier activity during the morning and afternoon. However, since the airport has long lulls during the middle of the day, delays aren’t likely to build over the course of the day, Tesoro-Fermin said.

The $50 million construction project will begin in May. Once completed, the runway will be capable of handling the Airbus A380, which will be the largest passenger aircraft when it begins operating in 2006.

By the Numbers

Ontario International Airport

  • 14: Number of consecutive months of year-over-year increases.
  • 3.77 percent GAIN: An increase of 59,085 passengers in the first quarter, 2005. Up from 1,568,900 in the first quarter, 2004.

    Palm Springs International Airport

  • 4.88 Percent GAIN: An increase of 23,953 passengers in the first quarter, 2005. Up from 490,675 in the first quarter, 2004.