By Art Marroquin
Airlines flying to new destinations from LA/Ontario International Airport may soon receive a series of incentives that could lead to reduced ticket rates for passengers.
The measures ordered Monday by the Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners could include landing at the Ontario airport for free, decreased terminal rental rates and marketing partnerships for airlines offering flights to new international and domestic cities, according to Mark Thorpe, director of Air Service Development for Los Angeles World Airports.
Decreased rates charged to airlines usually translate into ticket savings for passengers, Thorpe said.
The effort, he said, is part of LAWA's plan to divert passenger traffic from Los Angeles International Airport to other Southern California airports.
"This is a very wonderful opportunity," airport Commissioner Sylvia Reyes-Patsaouras said. "Until it's cheaper for people and the airlines to fly here, it will be difficult to continue to grow this airport."
More than 7 million passengers fly out of LA/Ontario International Airport each year, but airport officials hope to see that number grow to more than 30 million annually by 2030.
Attracting more flights has posed a challenge for Ontario, which has the highest landing fees in Southern California, Thorpe said.
The airport is still paying for the construction of two new terminals that opened in 1998. Those costs are handed down to the airlines, he said.
In a related action, the airport commission agreed to spend $3 million to renovate the dilapidated, unused Terminal 1 at Ontario airport so that a new carrier can move in by June.
San Diego-based developer Austin-Barnhart will shore up the building's roof and complete other renovations to the old terminal, which now houses offices for Ontario airport staff members.
The name of the airline carrier moving into the terminal was not immediately released, as LAWA officials complete negotiations, according to Jess Romo, manager of Ontario airport.
"This particular project has been on the books for some time, but it wasn't funded because we did not have a user for the building," Romo said.
"As soon as we became aware that someone became interested in that building, we accelerated the process so we can have service up and running by next spring."
The airport commission, however, delayed a decision on whether to begin construction of an air cargo center that would be built on 94 acres of land northwest of the passenger terminal at Ontario airport.
Airport commissioners asked staff for more time to review a lengthy report on the project, which would be built in five phases over the next 13 years by developer Aeroterm, based in Annapolis, Md. The airport commission is expected to consider the proposal during its next meeting.
Airport officials said they hope the new facility will propel Ontario airport to become one of the nation's major cargo handlers.
Ontario airport currently handles 500,000 tons of cargo annually, but officials hope to see that number increase to 3.36 million tons of cargo by 2030, according to LAWA figures.
"Ontario is crucial to the continuing growth, evolution and maturation of our Southern California economy," Ontario Mayor Paul Leon said. "Our continued partnership will help to drive the growth of facilities and services at Ontario International Airport to maintain our position as Southern California's next major gateway."
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