By Josh Stephens.
In the catalog of things near which people do not like to live, airports seem to rank just below smelting plants and abattoirs and, ever so slightly, above nuclear waste dumps and mine fields. While American airlines carry more than 700 million passengers annually, nobody wants to fly out of his own backyard. Nobody that is, except the citizens of Ontario, California.
Opened in the 1940s, Los Angeles/Ontario International Airport (ONT) was designed to serve eastern Greater Los Angeles, a populous region called the Inland Empire. What started as a collection of bedroom communities with a small regional airport has, decades later, grown to a metropolis of four million — with a small regional airport.
ONT was expanded in 1998, to two runways and two terminals, to accommodate up to 30 million annual passengers. At full capacity, ONT could be as busy as airports in Boston or Philadelphia. But its traffic peaked in 2007 at 7.2 million passengers. Last year, that dropped to 3.9 million passengers (most taking short Southwest Airlines flights).
While some of ONT’s decline can be attributed to the economic meltdown of the late 2000s, the City of Ontario has long accused Los Angeles World Airports — the parent public agency of both LAX and ONT, which it acquired through a joint powers agreement in 1967 — of neglecting ONT. Ontario officials claims that LAWA has failed to market the airport properly and has charged landing fees that give LAX a relative advantage.