Confirmed: Costs keep airlines out
Now it's official and on the record.
It not just the anemic economy that's keeping LA/Ontario International Airport down -- it's also the high cost for airlines to use the airport.
Ontario Councilman Alan Wapner and City Manager Chris Hughes have been saying so all along. Wapner has heard it from airline representatives, but none of those reps had said so for public consumption until now.
Low-cost airline Allegiant Air is getting squeezed out of gates at Los Angeles International Airline, and would like to move its LAX flights that are ending to ONT, which is a more natural fit for the airline anyway.
But "(t)he cost is prohibitive at Ontario," said Allegiant spokeswoman Jessica Wheeler. "If there were incentives offered by LAWA to go to Ontario, we would consider them. But up to this point, they have not been offered."
LAWA is Los Angeles World Airports, the Los Angeles city agency that runs LAX, ONT and Van Nuys Airport. LAWA officials have contended that ONT's steep drop in passenger traffic is just a matter of the bad economy, that there isn't much LAWA can do to help ONT until the economy heals.
Ontario city officials, meanwhile, have criticized LAWA for high administrative fees and other items that keep costs high at ONT, along with declining efforts to market the airport, and are agitating to bring ONT back under local control.
Put Allegiant on the Ontario side of the argument. The airline would move flights to ONT if it could get some cost relief there.
"If Ontario's rates were lower, Allegiant would already be there," said Brett Snyder, a former airline manager who blogs as The Cranky Flier. He noted that Allegiant flies out of the secondary airport in the Phoenix area - a more natural fit for an airline that offers flights to secondary markets such as Sioux Falls, S.D.; Billings, Mont., and Pasco, Wash., the three flights Allegiant is giving up at LAX.
ONT peaked at 7.2 million passengers in 2007. Southwest cut flights and ExpressJet and Jet Blue Airways both pulled out in 2008, and things have been going downhill since. The airport has lost 40 percent of its seat capacity, compared to a 20 percent decline for similar-size airports nationally. Ontario city officials expect 4.2 million passengers to use the airport this year, the lowest figure since 1983.
Meanwhile, air cargo traffic at ONT indicates some economic recovery is going on. Cargo at ONT is up 15.4 percent for the first half of this year compared to 2011, while passenger traffic for the same period is down 6.3 percent.
In other words, the economy is coming back -- but the passengers aren't.
It's not just the economy keeping ONT down.