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Ontario International Airport in May Reached Nearly 80% of Pre-pandemic Passenger Level

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Passenger volumes at Ontario International Airport (ONT) are showing signs of returning to pre-pandemic levels as the summer travel season kicks into high gear.

Passenger volume at Ontario International Airport (ONT) in May was nearly 80% of its pre-pandemic level, another encouraging sign as the popular Southern California airport prepares to welcome greater numbers of travelers over the summer.

Data released by the Ontario International Airport Authority (OIAA) show nearly 367,000 airline passengers traveled through ONT last month, which was 77.2% of ONT’s passenger volume in May 2019. Compared to May 2020, last month’s passenger total was 422% higher.

The May report continues a steady climb in passenger volumes heading into the summer travel season. Ontario officials anticipate more than 1.4 million passengers from the beginning of Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, recovering nearly 88% of the 1,657,185 passengers who arrived and departed ONT during the comparable period in 2019. That represents one of the fastest recovery rates in the United States.

“We continue to be enthusiastic about the pace of recovery at Ontario International and we are equally optimistic about volumes over the summer as air travelers rediscover the many advantages of arriving and departing our airport.” said Mark Thorpe, OIAA chief executive officer. “ONT continues to set the pace for recovery among California airports in rebounding from the severe downturn in air travel following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Today, airlines serving ONT offer nonstop service to 25 destinations including six new ones – Charlotte, Chicago (O’Hare International Airport), Honolulu, Houston (William P. Hobby Airport), Mexico City and San Salvador. 

Passenger TotalsMay 2021May 2020ChangeYTD 2021YTD 2020Change
Domestic355,64870,296405.93%1,203,3281,143,4225.2%
International11,2890N/A26,03764,060-59.4%
Total366,93770,296421.99%1,229,3651,207,4821.8%
Passenger TotalsMay 2021May 2019ChangeYTD 2021YTD 2019Change
Domestic355,648449,092-20.81%1,203,3281,994,713-39.7%
International11,28926,308-57.09%26,037121,968-78.7%
Total366,937475,400-22.82%1,229,3652,116,681-41.9%

Air freight shipments declined 20% in May to 65,000 tons compared to May last year but were flat – at 343,000 tons – from January through May compared to last year. However, freight was 18% higher over the first five months of the year compared to the same period in 2019.

Air cargo (tonnage)May 2021May 2020ChangeYTD 2021YTD 2020Change
Freight65,12482,039-20.62343,266343,488-0.1%
Mail3,9551,484166.4918,3387,518143.9%
Total69,07883,523-17.29361,605351,0063.0%
Air cargo (tonnage)May 2021May 2019ChangeYTD 2021YTD 2019Change
Freight65,12465,559-0.66%343,266289,90518.4%
Mail3,9552,61651.20%18,33811,80855.3%
Total69,07868,1741.33%361,605301,71319.9%

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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