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Domestic travel near full recovery; ONT September passenger volumes reached 97% of pre-COVID levels

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Southern California’s Ontario International Airport is close to matching pre-pandemic passenger levels.

The number of passengers who moved through Ontario International Airport (ONT) in September increased more than 132% from 2020 and approached 97% of pre-pandemic levels, as the Southern California gateway moves closer to full recovery from the impact of COVID-19 on global air travel.

According to data compiled by the Ontario International Airport Authority (OIAA), the airport welcomed more than 453,000 air travelers last month, more than double the September 2020 total of 195,000. Last month’s totals were just 3% behind the pre-pandemic levels in September 2019, when 469,000 passengers flew into or out of ONT.

Domestic and international traffic increased 130% and 242%, respectively, in September. When compared with September 2019, domestic travel was down just 1%, while international passenger volume was 47% lower.

Over the first nine months of 2021, total passenger volume exceeded 3 million, 59% higher than the same period last year and 24% lower than 2019. Domestic travel was 62% higher on a year-to-date basis while international volume was up 3%.

“Ontario International continues to be a bright spot in the aviation industry’s ongoing pandemic recovery,” said Curt Hagman, an OIAA commissioner and chairman of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors. “Having watched the transfer of ONT from the City of Los Angeles five years ago, I believed then just as I do now that we have the benefit of a broad and loyal customer base along with the ability to provide a hassle-free customer service experience in a vital gateway airport that is safe and secure.”

PassengerTotalsSept.2021Sept.2020ChangeYTD2021YTD2020Change
Domestic440,947191,467130.3%2,980,0261,840,96461.9%
International12,2273,570242.49%79,18676,3363.7%
Total453,174195,037132.35%3,059,2121,917,30059.6%
PassengerTotalsSept.2021Sept.2019ChangeYTD2021YTD2019Change
Domestic440,947446,169-1.17%2,980,0263,838,865-22.4%
International12,22723,155-47.1979,186223,889-64.6%
Total453,174469,324-3.443,059,2124,062,754-24.7%

Shipments of air freight and mail in September totaled more than 70,000 tons, 9.4% lower than September last year, but 15.4% higher than 2019. For the first nine months of the year, total cargo volume was more than 644,000 tons, a 3.5% decline compared with 2020, but 15.6% higher than 2019.

“In addition to creating an airport which is attractive to our partner airlines and their passengers, we’ve made dramatic improvements on the cargo side with expanded and modern facilities which appeal to shippers,” Hagman said.

Air cargo(tonnage)Sept.2021Sept.2020ChangeYTD2021YTD2020Change
Freight66,38075,862-12.5%609,952651,809-6.4%
Mail4,2692,17496.41%34,42615,780118.2%
Total70,64978,035-9.46%644,378667,589-3.5%
Air cargo(tonnage)Sept.2021Sept.2019ChangeYTD2021YTD2019Change
Freight66,38059,91810.79%609,952539,06213.2%
Mail4,2691,271235.87%34,42618,22188.9%
Total70,64961,18915.46%644,378557,28315.6%

The Inland Empire Business Journal (IEBJ) is the official business news publication of Southern California’s Inland Empire region - covering San Bernardino & Riverside Counties.

Travel & Tourism

Ontario International Airport passenger volume climbed more than 8% in April, 9% through first four months of 2024

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Ontario International Airport (ONT) continued its robust growth in passenger volume in April, increasing 8% to more than 573,000 and extending its run of year-over-year increases to 38 consecutive months.

The Southern California gateway welcomed more than 537,000 domestic passengers and 36,000 international travelers, increases of 8.2% and 5.5%, respectively, compared with April last year.

During the first four months of the year, ONT drew more than 2 million passengers, 9.4% more than the same period in 2023. The number of domestic and international fliers increased by 6.9% and 51.9%, respectively.

“April was another strong month for passenger growth,” said Atif Elkadi, chief executive officer of the Ontario International Airport Authority (OIAA). “As our airport continues to gain in popularity among air passengers, our airline partners are adding new routes and expanding existing services, all of which bodes well for air travel through the Inland Empire for the remainder of the year.”

The air carriers with the greatest passenger shares in April were:

  1. Southwest Airlines (37.0%)
  2. American Airlines (16.1%)
  3. Frontier Airlines (14.6%)
  4. Delta Air Lines (10.6%)
  5. Alaska Airlines (7.0%)
PassengerTotalsApr2024Apr2023ChangeYTD2024YTD2023Change
Domestic537,141496,2988.2%1,891,0711,769,2066.9%
International36,32634,4355.5%158,878104,56951.9%
Total573,467530,7338.1%2,049,9491,873,7759.4%

Elkadi noted that ONT is benefitting from recent population increases in the Inland Empire and proving to be an appealing and easily accessible option for Southern California air travel. The airport earlier reported it expects to serve nearly 2.2 million passengers this summer, a 15.1% increase over last summer and more than double an Airlines for America (A4A) industry forecast of a 6.3% by U.S. airlines this summer.

Total cargo shipments rebounded in April growing to almost 61,000 tons, a 4.1% increase over the same month last year. Air freight increased 8.8% year-over-year to more than 58,500 tons.

Over the first four months of 2024, freight shipments were 1.3% higher while total cargo of freight and mail combined decreased slightly by 2.3%.

Air cargo(tonnage)Apr2024Apr2023ChangeYTD2024YTD2023Change
Freight58,54453,8228.8%227,343224,3541.3%
Mail2,4234,753-49.0%10,24318,704-45.2%
Total60,96858,5764.1%237,586243,057-2.3%

“Strong demand for consumer goods helped to turn freight volume positive in April and through the first four months of the year,” Elkadi said. “We have been anticipating a return to growth on the cargo side and we are

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Travel & Tourism

New Global Entry Enrollment Center to open at Ontario International Airport as global travel continues to grow

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International travelers will no longer have to travel to Los Angeles to enroll in the popular program

Ontario International Airport (ONT) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on Thursday unveiled the new Global Entry Enrollment Center at California’s most popular airport.

The new center is the sixth in California and will offer a convenient, local option for international travelers from the Inland Empire and nearby communities who wish to enroll in the popular program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. Up until now, the nearest Global Entry Enrollment Center has been at Los Angeles International Airport.

“We are thrilled that U.S. Customs and Border Protection has selected ONT to serve as the site of its newest Global Entry Enrollment Center and look forward to helping residents across Southern California access this time-saving international travel amenity,” said Alan D. Wapner, President of the Ontario International Airport Authority (OIAA) Board of Commissioners. 

“The new center reflects CBP’s commitment to improving the customer experience as Global Entry continues to attract thousands of new applicants in the Greater Los Angeles area and neighboring communities,” said Cheryl M. Davies, CBP Director of Field Operations in Los Angeles. “We are very pleased with this expansion which brings visitors to the area and helps boost the local economy.”

“Ontario International Airport is a valued asset for the Inland Empire. As your Congresswoman, I am proud to have supported this project and others like to ensure ONT – which sits in the heart of our district – can get people and cargo where they need to be quickly and efficiently,” said Congresswoman Norma J. Torres (CA-35).

Global Entry uses specialized processing technology and dedicated lanes to expedite clearance for arriving international travelers who have passed a rigorous background check and in-person interview. To set up an interview at the Global Entry Enrollment Center, travelers must first receive online pre-approval.

The Global Entry Enrollment Center comes as ONT has seen international travel volumes double over the past year, with popular direct flights to Taiwan, Mexico and Latin America. In October, ONT and CBP partnered to introduce another international travel amenity, Simplified Arrivals, which uses facial biometrics to automate the manual document checks required for admission into the country. The technology provides travelers with a touchless process that further secures and streamlines international arrivals. In 2022, the OIAA Board named the airport’s Federal Inspection Station and any future international terminal after U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who was a strong advocate for the airport’s return to local ownership.

“Ontario International Airport is proud to partner with CBP in providing an opportunity for our community to avail themselves of the Global Entry program,” said Atif Elkadi, OIAA chief executive officer “As we expand our international travel options, all CBP programs will play a significant role in providing a more expedited and safe inspection process and today marks the start of how our region has proven itself as a key gateway into Southern California.”

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Travel & Tourism

More than 600,000 passengers traveled through Ontario International Airport in October

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The highest total in a single month since return to local control

The number of air passengers who traveled through Ontario International Airport (ONT) in October topped 600,000 for the first time since the airport’s return to local ownership and was a 12% increase over the same month last year.

The total passenger count of 606,497 included 568,484 domestic and 38,013 international travelers, increases of 8% and 141%, respectively.

From January through October, ONT reported more than 5.3 million passengers; 4.9 million domestic fliers and 334,000 international travelers. The total was 11.6% higher than the same period last year.

Domestic travel volume was 8% higher over the first 10 months of the 2023 while the number of international passengers more than doubled. 

“Our robust passenger volumes are no surprise given population growth in our service area and the rising popularity of our world class gateway,” said Atif Elkadi, chief executive officer, Ontario International Airport Authority (OIAA). “Our airline partners and air travelers recognize the value of our airport, hallmark hassle-free experience and first rate amenities and services, making Ontario International California’s favorite airport.”

According to a recent Los Angeles Times report, “Riverside County gained 36,000 residents between July 2020 and July 2021, the third most in the country. San Bernardino County grew by 11,970 people, helping the IE overtake San Francisco to become the 12th largest metropolitan area in the U.S.”

PassengerTotalsOct2023Oct2022ChangeYTD2023YTD2022Change
Domestic568,484526,0048.08 %4,968,8614,598,7178.0 %
International38,01315,726141.72 %334,134152,529119.1 %
Total606,497541,73011.96 %5,302,9954,751,24611.6 %

Shipments of freight and mail totaled 60,798 tons in October, 11.3% lower than October a year ago. On a year-to-date basis, cargo registered 604,116 tons, 12% lower than the first 10 months of 2022.

Air cargo(tonnage)Oct2023Oct2022ChangeYTD2023YTD2022Change
Freight57,97064,449-10.05 %564,183642,044-12.1 %
Mail2,8234,134-31.59 %39,93345,229-11.7 %
Total60,79868,583-11.35 %604,116687,274-12.1 %

“The trend toward lower air cargo volumes remained through October,” Elkadi said. “While global economic forces are still impacting cargo volumes at U.S. airports, we remain confident that our shipping partners will continue to choose our Southern California gateway as volumes rebound.”

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