Glendora Mayor Doug Tessitor recalls a time several years ago when Ontario airport was a bustling air transportation hub for the Inland Empire and the East San Gabriel Valley.
But that scene was in stark contrast to what Tessitor said he saw as he flew in to the airport Tuesday.
“When we pulled in there today, there were two Southwest Airlines jets, one American Airlines jet and you could virtually shoot a cannon through the area and not hit anybody,” said Tessitor. “There are two major terminals, only one of which is being used now.”
Glendora became the twelfth city to throw its support behind the city of Ontario’s push to transfer the struggling airport’s ownership to local control, blaming ONT's lagging traffic on the city of Los Angeles’ efforts to diminish ONT’s revenue for LAX airport’s gain.
ONT is currently under the ownership and control of the city of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles World Airports. According to ONT officials, Los Angeles and the LA World Airports are making business decisions in favor of the city of LA, including driving up landing fees to entice major airlines to divert traffic and passengers to LAX instead of ONT.
Ontario officials offered Los Angeles $250 million, including an initial $50 million, to gain control of Ontario Airport.
“Under local control, ONT will simultaneously reduce its cost structure and increase its marketing, advertising and promotion spending to provide the airport capacity Southern California needs in the long term to protect its tourism economy,” officials wrote in the airport recovery plan.
“The message of local control, which this council has been a strong supporter of, is at the heart of this issue and is certainly of benefit not only to the city of Ontario, but of our residents who would choose to fly out of that than to drive to LAX,” said Glendora City Manager Chris Jeffers.
Other smaller airports such as Burbank, Orange County and Long Beach are operated locally. According to Ontario officials, these airports are able to run their airports more cost effectively.
ONT officials say in the past four years, ONT has lost more than a third of its passenger traffic, costing the Inland empire $300 million annually and more than 9,000 jobs.
The number of domestic and non-stop flights at the airport has dropped almost 37 percent since 2007.
But Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said the city has no plans to sell ONT and LAWA representatives say Ontario has distorted the issue.
"We're disappointed Ontario is trying to politicizing an issue and not really judge based on the merit," LAWA Board president Michael Lawson said told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. “We're especially disappointed that they are making their political arguments on assumptions that were not based by the facts."
But Ontario and supporting cities believe local control is the only way to ensure business decisions best serve the region’s interests.
“Home rule is more important here than having LA city determine what takes place 60 miles from them in this area without any concern for the businesses or the people who live here,” said Glendora Councilmember Joe Santoro.