Business & Economy

Under new management, Ontario International Airport chief vows cheaper flights, easy access

 Travelers pass through L.A./ Ontario International Airport on the eve of Thanksgiving Nov. 26, 2008 in Ontario.
Travelers pass through L.A./ Ontario International Airport on the eve of Thanksgiving Nov. 26, 2008 in Ontario.
David McNew/Getty Images

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After 50 years, Ontario is again in control of its airport.  

Ownership of the Ontario International Airport officially transferred to the Ontario International Airport Authority Wednesday. The airport authority was created by the City of Ontario and San Bernardino County to oversee its operations. 

Since 1967, the airport — Southern California's 3rd largest — was operated by Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), the operator of LAX. The agency assumed full ownership of Ontario's airport in 1985. But a lawsuit filed three years ago claimed the LAWA reneged on upgrade promises and intentionally neglected it. 

LAWA reached a settlement with the city of Ontario last year to transfer control back to local control. In exchange, Ontario will pay LAWA  $120 million over 10 years, the Associated Press reports. 

The shift has excited local stakeholders, who say the change will bring big benefits to the Inland Empire's economy.

Curt Hagman, San Bernardino County Supervisor and Commissioner for the Ontario International Airport Authority says under its new ownership, the airport will offer cheaper flight options and a better overall experience for travelers.

​​​KPCC's Nick Roman interviewed him about the upcoming changes. 

To hear the conversation click the play button at the top of the page. Highlights are below.

Interview Highlights:

On the airport's construction plans

Obviously, having local control allows us to do land development around the airport — to promote the Inland Empire economy and to add travel routes and convenience to our residents. We have over 700 acres on that property to develop. We have a lot of big visions for the airport. Obviously one of the crucial needs is the expansion of our terminals; both on the domestic and international side. We're envisioning shopping centers and restaurant choices and a lot of the conveniences that people want. We want to modernize the operations and make it a very good passenger experience. 

On the cost of flights

I think one of the key aspects for our residents to understand is the economy of airports. The economy of airports is all done on the airports itself. One of the things that make flights cheaper and more available is the operations costs that go into the airlines. We have a lot of land assets around the airport that we're able to develop over a period of time that will underwrite the operational costs which will make the flights cheaper. When the flights are cheaper, people use them more. 

On Eastern LA County travelers

I think [Ontario Airport and LAX are] equal distance from downtown L.A. Obviously I believe - for all those who travel to LAX and Ontario - Ontario is the easier access airport at this point. You're even going against the traffic, depending on what time of day you go.

We're excited for the opportunity to serve in the network of airports for Southern California. We're not in direct competition with the others. We'll be augmenting flights and going different places. We have more choices now for Southern Californians to fly out of. 

On the prospects of constructing a direct link with the Gold Line commuter rail

It's our goal [to construct one]. Have we figured out how to finance that goal yet? No. But we envision having the Gold Line and that being a transportation hub for a greater ease of access to the airport. It's a crucial component of [the airport's] success.