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Ontario International Airport achieves milestone in March as passenger volume exceeded pre-pandemic level

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Ontario International Airport (ONT) officials had eagerly awaited a month in which passenger volume would be higher than the same month before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and now the wait is over as the Southern California airport welcomed 454,000 air travelers last month, 4% more than in March 2019.

“Ontario is setting the pace of recovery among airports in California and, as a result, it is an attractive metropolitan gateway for airlines restarting suspended services and establishing new routes as public health restrictions ease and demand for air travel increases,” said Alan D. Wapner, president of the Ontario International Airport Authority (OIAA) Board of Commissioners.

Domestic passengers totaled 439,531 last month, while the number of international travelers was almost 15,000, increases of 71% and 446%, respectively, compared with March of last year. The total number of ONT passengers was 75% higher in March.

Most importantly, domestic and international passenger volume combined was 3.97% higher in March compared with March 2019. Domestic travel increased more than 6.5% to 439,531 while international volume was 40% lower at 14,492.

“The March passenger numbers are a tremendous achievement for our airport and airline partners, launching Ontario International’s pandemic recovery to an even higher level. We can’t say for sure what the coming months will bring, but the March passenger count shows what full recovery looks like,” said OIAA Chief Executive Officer Atif Elkadi,

The emergence of ONT as an increasingly popular aviation gateway comes as the Inland Empire experiences a steady influx of new residents, particularly from the coastal areas of Los Angeles and Orange counties, drawn by employment opportunities, available housing and high quality of life. According to  U.S. Census data, San Bernardino and Riverside counties have experienced the fifth-largest population gain among the top 50 metro areas in the U.S.

 

Passenger

Totals

March

2022

March

2021

Change

YTD

2022

YTD

2021

Change

Domestic

439,531

256,837

71.13%

1,109,780

552,494

100.9%

International

14,492

2,654

446.04%

41,859

11,150

275.4%

Total

454,023

259,491

74.97%

1,151,639

563,644

104.3%

 

From January through March, the number of passengers who traveled through ONT doubled compared to the same period last year. The first quarter figures were 3.7% lower than 2019.

 

Passenger

Totals

March

2022

March

2019

Change

YTD

2022

YTD

2019

Change

Domestic

439,531

412,440

6.57%

1,109,780

1,124,922

-1.3.%

International

14,492

24,261

-40.27%

41,859

71,411

-41.4%

Total

454,023

436,701

3.97%

1,151,639

1,196,333

-3.7%

 

Shipments of air cargo likewise remained strong in March compared with March 2019, increasing by 22%. On a year-to-date basis, shipments of freight and mail combined were 18% higher than the first quarter of 2019 as the Inland Empire continued to be a hub for commercial freight movement.

Compared to 2021, March and year-to-date cargo shipments decreased 6.5% and 7%, respectively.

 

Air cargo

(tonnage)

March

2022

March

2021

Change

YTD

2022

YTD

2021

Change

Freight

67,795

74,367

-8.84%

188,332

207,720

-9.3%

Mail

5,303

3,828

38.54%

14,208

10,298

38.0%

Total

73,098

78,195

-6.52%

202,540

218,019

-7.1%

 

Air cargo

(tonnage)

March

2022

March

2019

Change

YTD

2022

YTD

2019

Change

Freight

67,795

57,582

17.74%

188,332

164,988

14.1%

Mail

5,303

2,325

128.06%

14,208

6,738

110.9%

Total

73,098

59,907

22.02%

202,540

171,725

17.9%

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

Transportation

SMART Airports Conference to bring airport leaders and innovators from around the world to Ontario, California

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Ontario International Airport and Southern California’s dynamic Inland Empire will be on the global stage next week as aviation leaders from around the world gather for the 2022 SMART Airports & Regions Conference.

Ontario International Airport (ONT) and Southern California’s dynamic Inland Empire will be on the global stage next week as aviation leaders from around the world gather for the 2022 SMART Airports & Regions Conference – one of the aviation industry’s largest and most prestigious annual events.

The three-day conference opens Monday, July 18, at the Ontario Convention Center, and will focus on topics ranging from how aviation can inspire new economic opportunities in a post-pandemic world to the role of airports as incubators for innovation in urban development and regional connectivity.

Ontario and the Inland Empire are an ideal location for this global gathering. We have one of the fastest-growing airports in the world, in the heart of one of the most robust population and economic centers in the U.S. And when it comes to innovative multimodal transportation solutions, no region can match what’s being done here to redefine mobility and access while creating new economic development opportunities,” said Alan D. Wapner, President of the Ontario International Airport Authority (OIAA) and Mayor pro Tem of the City of Ontario.

The SMART Airport & Regions Conference is being co-hosted by ONT and the Greater Ontario Convention & Visitors Bureau (GOCVB). Among the more than 50 speakers and presenters will be several leaders from the two organizations, including Wapner, OIAA Commissioners Ron Loveridge and Curt Hagman, the airport’s Chief Executive Officer Atif Elkadi, Chief Capital Development Officer Michelle Brantley and Chief Commercial Officer Dan Cappell, and GOCVB President and CEO Michael Krouse.

The event comes as ONT is in the midst of a historic run that has seen travel volumes exceed pre-pandemic levels for three months in a row, including, in May, the highest number of passengers since the airport’s return to local ownership in 2016. For the past four years, ONT has been recognized by Global Traveler as the fastest-growing airport in the United States, and its role as an economic driver and preferred aviation gateway for millions of Southern Californians is helping to drive significant transit investments across the region. Upcoming projects include zero-emission bus-rapid transit, hydrogen-powered passenger rail and an all-electric-vehicle tunnel from a planned state-of-the-art multimodal transit center.

In addition, ONT plays a critical role in the Inland Empire’s emergence as a global goods movement hub, and today ranks among the Top 10 cargo airports in North America.

“We have a great story to tell – here at ONT and across this great region we serve. The Inland Empire is now the 12th largest – and fifth fastest-growing – metropolitan area in the U.S., with a quality of life that is unmatched. We’ve prepared ourselves to meet those growth needs, while preserving the convenience and positive customer experience that have become our hallmark,” said Elkadi, ONT’s CEO.

“We are thrilled to host this event at Ontario Convention Center and to expose the world-wide attendees to the heart of Southern California’s Inland Experience! Our Convention & Visitors Bureau is here to welcome our visitors and provide information on the amenities and destinations in our region,” said Krouse, GOCVB’s President & CEO.

While the SMART Airports & Regions Conference officially opens on Monday, programs and presentations begin Tuesday. A complete agenda is available here.

 

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Travel & Tourism

Ontario International Airport passenger volumes beat pre-pandemic levels for fourth straight month in June

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Southern California gateway reported 2.6 million passengers year to date, signaling full recovery is at hand

Once again, Ontario International Airport exceeded pre-pandemic passenger volumes for the fourth consecutive month. More than half a million airline passengers traveled through Ontario International Airport (ONT) in June, almost 8% more than the same month in 2019 and the fourth consecutive month the Southern California gateway has exceeded pre-pandemic passenger levels.

Ontario International reported 514,000 total passengers last month, almost 20% more than June last year. Domestic travelers totaled 496,691 in June, increases of 10% and 18% compared with June 2019 and 2021, respectively.

On a year-to-date basis, ONT recorded 2.6 million passengers, 2.6% higher than the first half of 2019 and 60% more than the same period last year. Domestic travelers, who continue to drive ONT’s resurgence, totaled more than 2.5 million from January through June.

“Ontario International’s performance this year shows what full recovery looks like and we couldn’t be happier for it,” said Alan D. Wapner, president of the Ontario International Airport Authority (OIAA) Board of Commissioners and Mayor pro Tem for the City of Ontario. “With demand for air travel through ONT growing month after month, we are ramping up for more air service by opening all of our 27 aircraft terminal gates, providing travelers the seamless, efficient experience they’ve come to expect.”

“We have worked tirelessly since the onset of the pandemic to be ready for a resurgence in air travel, and airlines and air passengers are showing their faith in Ontario as we continue to deliver a first-rate and stress-free customer experience,” said OIAA Chief Executive Officer Atif Elkadi.

Air cargo shipments by weight grew more than 14% compared with June 2019. The nearly 72,000 tons which moved through ONT in June were almost equal to the same month last year.

For the first six months of the year, cargo tonnage was 12% higher than the same period in 2019.

“Ontario International continues to be a tremendous public asset for the Inland Empire, setting the pace for pandemic recovery among U.S. airports while offering appealing facilities and cost-efficient services to our airline and shipping partners,” Wapner said.

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Travel & Tourism

FAA Awards Ontario International Airport another $10.77 million for taxiway, airfield improvements

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Ontario International Airport has received an additional $10.77 million in infrastructure funding from the FAA.

Ontario International Airport will receive another $10.77 million from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to invest in infrastructure improvements at the aviation gateway of choice for millions of Southern Californians.

The FAA announced this week that it is awarding a total of $518 million to airports across the country, under its 2022 Airport Improvement Program. ONT will receive the largest amount within California – for taxiway improvements and expanding the lighting vault that serves the airport’s runways.

The announcement comes less than a year after ONT was awarded $12.68 million through the FAA and the American Rescue Plan Act for taxiway and runway improvements.

“I’m grateful to our staff for preparing a successful funding application and to the FAA for continuing to bring infrastructure and airfield improvement dollars to the fastest-growing passenger airport in the U.S.,” said Alan D. Wapner, President of the Ontario International Airport Authority Board of Commissioners and Mayor Pro Tem of the City of Ontario.

ONT has been one of the aviation industry’s great success stories, eclipsing pre-pandemic passenger volumes and ranking among the Top 10 cargo airports in North America. The airport also plays a critical role in the Inland Empire’s emergence as one of the fastest-growing population centers in the United States and a global supply chain hub.

“In communities of all sizes, airports are vital to local economies, sustaining jobs and getting people and goods where they need to go,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, in announcing this week’s funding awards. “We’re pleased to announce this important funding to help improve airports around the country and better serve all Americans.”

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