Ontario taking airport feud to L.A. mayor

OntarioOntario officials went public Monday with a request to meet with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to discuss local control of Ontario International Airport because negotiations with L.A. World Airports broke down in September.

After a meeting of the Ontario International Airport Authority on Monday, board President Alan Wapner said Los Angeles World Airports Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey broke off the negotiations Sept. 18 after raising the price for the airport by $200 million.

The two sides had agreed on a price, which Wapner declined to disclose. Ontario’s lead negotiator, Al Boling, got the Ontario City Council to approve the price. But when he next met with Lindsey, she added $200 million to the cost, Wapner said.

When asked if she would accept a counter-offer if Boling could get one approved, Lindsey said no, effectively ending the negotiations, Wapner said.

Requests for comment from Lindsey or LAWA were not returned Monday afternoon.

“Negotiations completely collapsed as a result of (L.A.) staff being unwilling to meet with our negotiators,” Wapner said, adding that he has privately made numerous attempts to meet with Garcetti but gotten no response.

Garcetti has said publicly that he believes Ontario airport should be locally controlled, and that he doesn’t want to make money off the return of the airport, just for L.A. to be repaid for what it has spent.

The latest price was arrived at by calculating L.A.’s costs through an audit. But L.A. officials said the city spent more than the audit showed. Ontario officials offered to include any additional costs that could be documented, Wapner said.

No additional documentation has been offered, he said.

Ontario leaders aren’t sure whether Garcetti knows that Lindsey unilaterally broke off the talks, Wapner said, or even if she is telling him what is going on with the lawsuit between the two cities over control of ONT.

That’s why they went public with their quest for a meeting with the mayor. They want to meet with him by Dec. 31.

Garcetti’s office said L.A. has met with Ontario throughout the year and “kept the lines of communication open in hopes of resolving this dispute.”

The Ontario International Airport Authority was created two years ago to be ready to operate ONT, when local control is regained. It meets monthly.�

Its board includes two Ontario council members, a San Bernardino County supervisor, former Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge and Orange County business leader Lucy Dunn.

The authority board heard a report about ONT’s continued decline. Although passenger numbers have increased 4 percent in 2014, the first time in seven years, airlines are cutting flights, said Boling, the authority’s executive director.�

The increase in passenger numbers is because flights are packed with passengers, he said. Airlines will continue to cut flights until next October, schedules show.

Airports throughout Southern California are doing fairly well, except Long Beach, which is down 4.1 percent because JetBlue has trimmed its flights, Boling said.

Wapner added that Long Beach Airport grew 361 percent after JetBlue made it its West Coast hub. ONT was JetBlue’s first choice and could have enjoyed that growth, Wapner said, but LAWA couldn’t negotiate for the hub.

Statistics show LAX has enjoyed a growing share of Southern California air passenger traffic, illustrating it hasn’t spread traffic among the region’s airports. LAX’s share climbed to 76.4 percent since Lindsey became LAWA chief in 2007.


LAX increases market share as that of Ontario airport, others shrink
By Dan Weikel
The Los Angeles (CA) Times

Most airports in the area are growing again, but figures released Monday
underscore just how much Los Angeles International Airport dominates the
market and continues to frustrate the goals of a lawsuit settlement to
spread airline traffic across the region..

A new study presented to the Ontario International Airport Authority board
shows that LAX will handle a record 71.4 million airline passengers this
year and has increased its market share as of September to 76.4%, the
highest in 25 years.

Ontario officials, who have sued to regain control of LA/Ontario from Los
Angeles, say the new figures are another indication that the operator, Los
Angeles World Airports, has ignored a 2006 court settlement requiring the
agency to try to spread the growth in air travel at LAX to other airports.

“The fact is that the attempt by Los Angeles to regionalize aviation in
Southern California has failed miserably,” said Ontario Mayor Pro Tem Alan
Wapner. “We need to bring local control back to the airport.”

So-called regionalism has long been a goal of noise- and traffic-conscious
residents surrounding LAX. Many have fought that airport’s physical
expansion in court for years and obtained a settlement in 2006 requiring Los
Angeles officials to work toward regionalizing airline traffic in return for
being able to make various LAX improvements.

Citing records that include emails, deposition testimony and meeting
transcripts, Ontario’s pending lawsuit quotes top-ranking Los Angeles
airport officials appearing to dismiss regionalism as “a silly waste of
time,” “a politically driven mantra to appease LAX neighbors” and “economic
suicide” for LAX, which is undergoing a multibillion-dollar modernization.

A Riverside County Superior Court judge is expected to rule soon on several
key disputes in the case.

In a statement Monday, Los Angeles officials said 2014 would be a good year
for LA/Ontario, but they did not address the regionalization issue. They
have contended that the airport’s decline is due to the economic recession
and a restructuring in which the airline industry shifted flights to
dominant airports, such as LAX.

Airline costs at LA/Ontario have been cut to make it more attractive, they
said, and there are ongoing efforts to market the airport and encourage
carriers to add service.

According to airport figures, the number of passengers at LA/Ontario has
increased about 4.1% during the first 10 months of this year from about 3.29
million to 3.42 million. Oliver Wyman predicts the volume will be about 4.1
million by the end of the year.

Though the number of passengers is up, the report indicates that airlines
will continue to pull available seats out of the LA/Ontario market and
reduce flight schedules into 2015, the eighth consecutive year that carriers
have reduced capacity.

“It’s a terrible trend that must be addressed and corrected in order for the
airport’s recovery to begin in earnest,” said Ontario City Manager Al

In addition to LA/Ontario, the data shows that Palm Springs International
Airport and John Wayne Airport in Orange County have experienced some
passenger growth since the recession, whereas Bob Hope Airport in Burbank
and Long Beach Airport have had recent declines in travelers.