LOS ANGELES — A report released last week by Ontario officials from an aviation consultant concludes that time is running out to transfer Ontario International to local control and save the airport.
The drop-off in passenger traffic has accelerated to the point that, without a major infusion of cash to advertise and market the airport, it may not recover, according to a study done by consulting firm Oliver Wyman.
Ontario lost almost 40% of its 7.2 million annual passengers from 2007 to 2012. A further 8% decline is expected this year, according to the report, which would bring the volume of travelers to slightly less than four million.
If the trend continues, the number of annual passengers could fall below two million by 2020, making the airport increasingly unattractive for airlines, reducing service for travelers and costing the region tens of millions of dollars in economic activity, according to the report.
Given the current situation, "it seems increasingly likely that to turn around ONT's downward spiral substantial outside resources will be required — in the millions of dollars," according to the report prepared by Robert Hazel, a Washington, D.C.-based partner with Oliver Wyman.
Ontario officials have been battling with Los Angeles World Airport for the past three years in efforts to regain local control of the airport.
LAWA controls LA/ONT, Los Angeles International Airport and two other regional airports in Los Angeles County.
Oliver Wyman was hired to prepared the report for Ontario International Airport Authority, a joint powers authority comprised of officials from the four-county catchment area served by the airport.
The report contends that the funds are needed to sharply reduce ONT charges to airlines and to provide aggressive marketing support.
"Without such intervention, ONT is likely to continue to struggle just to maintain its current uncompetitive airport charge structure and minimal airport marketing program," Hazel said in the report.
The report, "Ontario International Airport: Accelerating Passenger Declines Imperil Future Recovery," provides an update on the airport's performance since 2010 and an assessment of its future prospects based on current trends.
"The report is a wake-up call to the new Los Angeles city government," said Ontario Council Member Alan Wapner. "Time is running short to place the airport in the hands of the regional authority that has a vested interest in the airport."
Ontario Mayor pro Tem Jim Bowman said they hope to work with new Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and the LAX Board of Airport commissioners to expedite a transfer to the Ontario International Airport Authority.
Wapner added that more than 130 municipalities, counties, public officials, business and community organizations in four counties support transferring ONT to the Ontario International Airport Authority.
Ontario and San Bernardino County formed the OIAA in August 2012 by enacting a joint powers agreement with representatives from the airport's four-county catchment area to provide direction for the airport. Wapner is president of the JPA. Other members include Bowman, San Bernardino County Supervisor Gary Ovitt, Retired Riverside Mayor Ronald Loveridge and Orange County Business Council president and chief executive officer Lucy Dunn.