Board OKs airport waiver

ONTARIO - The Board of Airport Commissioners voted Monday to develop a passenger air service incentive policy at LA/ONT International Airport in hopes of increasing passenger flights there.

The policy would waive landing fees for airlines offering destinations not already served from the airport - a sizable savings for carriers at LA/ONT.

"Ontario has the highest rate in Southern California because it's the newest airport," said Mark Thorpe, Los Angeles World Airport director of air service marketing.

It costs twice as much as LAX and is six times higher than Long Beach airports, he said.

Thorpe said landing fees are determined by how much it cost to build airport facilities, so LA/ONT's fees rank the highest in the region.

That is why - despite its substantial marketing and advertising efforts - LA/ONT has continued to lag behind other airports in Southern California in terms of passenger traffic growth, Thorpe said.

"It will give airlines the opportunity to bring in a new fleet of aircraft," said Jess Romo, LA/ONT manager. "For a typical 737 aircraft, landing fees are about $300 per landing in Ontario."

Romo said airlines will have to maintain the service for a full year to receive the waiver.

In turn, a carrier starting a new, international service will have fees waived for up to 12 months, and those offering a new domestic destination will enjoy up to six months without fees under the proposed policy.

"It's a policy based on a model used at other airports," Romo said, adding the policy must still be developed and brought before the board before it can be enacted.

Monday night, commissioners unanimously approved creating the policy to jump-start passenger traffic at LA/ONT.

Romo said the incentive should increase passenger air service, and more routes mean more passengers, which will ultimately result in more revenue for the airport.

So, the policy would be a win-win for LA/ONT as well, he said.

"We're hoping that what they don't pay in landing fees, passengers will pay in patronizing the food and retail stores in the terminals, which will offset the costs," Romo said.

LAWA Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey said the policy has been pioneered at other airports and has proved successful.

"We recognize when a passenger carrier comes to start a service in a market that might be iffy, it's a little bit of a risk," Lindsey said. "So, if we can share some of that risk, it gives them a little bit of a leg up."

In addition, the board considered approval of the long anticipated project essential to cargo growth at LA/ONT - the Pacific Gateway Cargo Center.

The item called for board approval of a 40-year lease to Aeroterm for the 1-million-square-foot cargo center on 93.5 acres of the airport over a 13-year period.

It also called for the certification of the project's Final Environmental Impact Report, and the adoption of its Mitigation Monitoring and Reporting Program.

Maryland-based firm Aeroterm was selected to build the facility in June 2003, but the project was delayed until now due to a number of factors, said John Cammett, Aeroterm president and CEO.

There have been changes in LAWA administration and officials since the process began, and the extensive EIR was complex, he said.

Commissioner Walter Zifkin moved to defer any action on the item to the next board meeting, due to a massive volume of documents on the project he'd just received days ago.

Cammett took the additional delay in stride.

"I'm fine with it," he said. "I think the commissioners received a large amount of information, and they need time to get through it." (909) 483-9347