Ontario International Airport – City Wants to Manage It

LAWA has doubts about Ontario managing the airport
The current manager of Ontario International Airport has doubts about transferring control of the airport to the city of Ontario, according to a document prepared by Los Angeles World Airport’s (LAWA) staff.

The city of Ontario’s proposal to manage Ontario airport (the city of Los Angeles would still own it) was submitted on Jan. 12 to LAWA officials. Since then, Ontario officials haven’t revealed what the proposal entailed or what LAWA’s response included.

The document was prepared for a discussion about management options of Ontario airport during Monday’s regular LAWA Board of Airport Commissioner’s
meeting. The discussion was tabled until March 21 because of time constraints on Monday. The document, though, was sent to members of the media before the meeting in anticipation of the discussion.

In them, LAWA staff refuted Ontario’s claims that the agency has mismanaged the airport which has had a 33 percent drop in passenger traffic since 2007, and said the agency doubts handing control to an entity that has no experience managing a major commercial airport.

LAWA staff cautioned later that the information in the document could change prior to the next commissioner meeting.

Ontario City Manager Chris Hughes hadn’t seen the document as of Tuesday and declined to comment. City officials have said they don’t want to negotiate a
proposal with LAWA in public.

UPDATE – Tuesday, March 22, 2011

ONTARIO: Hopes to take charge of airport deflated
The Riverside (CA) Press-Enterprise

Any hope that the city of Ontario had in assuming control of the airport within its boundary by July 1 was dismissed Monday at a Los Angeles World Airports board meeting.

Transferring management of the airport to the city of Ontario would be complicated whether through a competitive bidding process or by modifying the agreement that already exists between the city and LAWA and require a “pretty sophisticated” financial arrangement that would need widespread political support, Gina Marie Lindsey, executive director of LAWA, which owns and operates LAX and Ontario International Airport, told the agency’s board of airport commissioners.

“We’re not optimistic this will take months. It’s probably more like years,” she said.

Officials with the city of Ontario have hoped to take control of the airport by July 1, the start of the fiscal year.

In an emailed statement, Ontario Councilman Alan Wapner said he was, “perplexed that LAWA is pushing back on negotiating with Ontario for the transfer of Ontario International Airport,” in light of discussions the two sides have recently had.

Passenger traffic at Ontario airport has dropped 33.3 percent since 2007. The city of Ontario has blamed the high cost for airlines to operate there. It costs $14.50 per boarding passenger versus several dollars less elsewhere.

Ontario has sought to take control of the airport, including enlisting the help of state Sen. Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga, who has submitted a bill that proposes transferring airport management.

LAWA staff, though, has characterized the passenger losses as a product of the recession that has affected other midsize airports. Lindsey said Ontario airport’s managers had cut costs there by 30 percent, mainly by transferring workers elsewhere.

Even with the drop in costs, the airport’s managers haven’t been able to keep pace with traffic, Lindsay said, adding that it would be an ongoing quest to do so.

LAWA had also recently asked airport management firms interested in managing Ontario airport to submit an “expression of interest.” Ten firms responded and provided substantive and thoughtful responses and advice, Lindsey said. The city of Ontario was not one of the 10 who participated, but did submit its own management proposal to the mayor of Los Angeles in mid-January.

Michael Molina, deputy director of external affairs for LAWA, said he expects a “dialogue” to continue between the city of Ontario and LAWA but shied away from calling them negotiations.

“I think negotiation might be too strong a word,” he said. “Bottom line, we want to work with the city of Ontario.”