LA's choking out Ontario airport

Apparently politics can also have negative effects on large commercial airports too…………….. CalPilot’s Editor

By now, everyone realizes Ontario International Airport plays second fiddle to LAX in the eyes of its owner, Los Angeles city.

If it weren’t already clear, Monday, June 18’s action by the LA Board of Airport Commissioners spelled it out in black and white:

OntarioLos Angeles World Airports will spend $4.6 million on advertising and public relations for LAX in the next year; for ONT, $142,000.

That’s less than it will spend on advertising and public relations for Van Nuys Airport, which has no commercial flights. Van Nuys will get $186,000. Huh?

The LA airport authority used to spend upwards of $2 million a year marketing ONT, and passenger volumes grew steadily. But since 2007, the advertising and PR budget for ONT has been all but wiped out.

The number of passengers has been plummeting ever since – estimated to be just 4.2 million this year, compared to 7.2 million in 2007.

According to a white paper supporting Ontario’s local-control effort, many U.S. airports have been increasing their marketing budgets because of growing competition for new air service.

In Southern California, LAX and other airports have been getting new air service, while at ONT, airlines have been eliminating flights.

LAWA officials insist Ontario airport is just suffering the same kind of downturn as other secondary airports.

Is that so? Well, take a look at Oakland International Airport, the Bay Area’s secondary airport after San Francisco International.

Oakland’s passenger numbers increased almost 15 percent in April 2012 compared to April 2011. For the first four months of the year, totals are nearly 8 percent higher than the first four months of 2011.

Maybe LAWA officials should give Oakland officials a call and ask what they’re doing differently.

Later this week, Riverside leaders will meet with Jess Romo, airport manager at ONT and Van Nuys (he used to manage ONT full-time but in 2009, LAWA put him in charge of two airports).

Hopefully, they will ask him why ONT’s marketing budget has been slashed.

It’s not like LAWA has no money to spend.

It recently hosted a public reception for a new video-art installation at LAX featuring 17 media artworks and four hours of original programming aimed at “enhancing the ambience at LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal,” according to the Torrance Daily Breeze.

LAWA also plans a $26.5 million makeover of facilities for propeller planes at Van Nuys airport, according to the LA Daily News.

When the leaders meet with Romo on Wednesday, I hope they point out that Van Nuys, a private-plane airport with annual revenue just over $16 million, is getting a bigger marketing budget than Ontario, a commercial airport that brings in more than $67 million a year.

Month after month, ONT passenger volumes continue depressingly to fall, down 7.09 percent in the first four months of 2012 compared to the first four months of 2011.

LAX’s passenger volumes in the same period were up 5.44 percent.

The numbers say it all.