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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.

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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