LOS ANGELES — In its first year of local control, Ontario International Airport saw passenger traffic climb 7% over the prior year’s numbers to 4.5 million.

A group of City of Ontario and Inland Empire regional leaders fought for four years — even filing a lawsuit against Los Angeles — in an attempt to gain control of their airport.

They succeeded in achieving that goal in November 2016.

“Our aggressive and persistent efforts to position ONT as the new gateway to Southern California are reflected in solid, month-over-month increases in both customers and cargo,” said Alan D. Wapner, president of the Ontario International Airport Authority. “The strong momentum built in 2017, the first full year of local control of ONT, gives us great optimism for what lies ahead in 2018.”

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8, in August 2017
Southwest Airlines is the busiest carrier at Ontario International Airport, which reported higher passenger traffic in 2017. Southwest Airlines

As part of the deal to wrest control from Los Angeles, the Ontario International Airport Authority closed on a $52 million taxable refunding in November 2016 to replace outstanding bonds issued by Los Angeles for the Ontario airport.

The transfer process began on Aug. 6, 2015 after LA and Ontario officials agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by Ontario against LAWA, which has controlled the Inland Empire airport since the 1960s.

The airport achieved higher passenger volumes in 2017 than in any year since 2010, while cargo tonnage continued its run of double-digit increases, according to the airport authority.

Its passenger traffic gains slightly outpaced the national trend; from October 2016 to October 2017, the most recent available full-year statistics, enplanements on U.S. domestic flights increased 4.3%, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

In addition to recording 7% growth in passenger traffic for 2017, the airport also saw a 10% year-over-year increase in passengers during December.

Freight tonnage grew nearly 14% in December, rising to more than 72,000 metric tons from 63,000 tons in December 2016. For calendar year 2017, cargo shipments rose more than 15% over 2016.

Based on airline schedules for 2018, Wapner said, the number of seats available on all scheduled commercial flights is expected to exceed 2017 on a monthly basis. More than 6.2 million seats will be available in 2018, 10% higher than last year and the high mark since 2010.

In the spring, China Airlines will launch non-stop passenger service between Taiwan and Ontario.

“We look forward to maintaining a high level of customer satisfaction with more options for travel in Southern California, improvements to our facilities and expanded amenities,” Wapner said.

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