I’ve not been to Ontario International Airport in probably seven years, and boy was I surprised at its transformation from a bustling airport with over 7.2 million passengers per year in its heyday to just under 4 million in 2013. A once bustling airport with two terminals and an incredible amount of air traffic. Now sadly it’s just a shell of its former self. I went out of terminal two which is shared by United, Alaska, Volaris and Aeromexico and this place was a morgue as you can see. The other terminal houses American, Delta and Southwest and I can’t imagine anyone other Southwest having any lift there. The check in counters were empty save for a few staff. When I went through security I was the only person in line at 10:30 am on the Friday before Christmas. In fact pre-check was open but the staff had to walk over from “normal” security just to get me.
The worst part about this place was the shuttered stores, there were more closed then open, just a sign of the times I guess at an airport that was once a very very busy hub.
Besides my suitcase and one other lone passenger, that was it between gates 200 and 206, it’s like we were lost or something.
Between 1992 and 2007 the airport has seen steady year over year numbers between 6 and 7 million passengers, then as the economy tanked the airport has seen steady and drastic decline to the 4 million today. The most and frankly telling statement came from my gate agent. He was young and incredibly hard working gate agent. When I walked up to try and standby for and already one hour delayed flight he said “I don’t know why people travel from here the flights are delayed everyday.” He went on to say that LA was just a better option regardless of the drive. Sadly regardless of the weather, he went on say that his airlines’ flights are perpetually late. Of course he’s just one person but if today was any indicator of the usual issues there and lack of service sadly it’s an airport to possibly avoid.
From a purely selfish standpoint – my in-laws live 20 minutes from ONT, but it can take up to 2 1/2 hours to get to LAX if you time it wrong – I wish this airport could find a way to succeed. But I just don’t see how unless the city or county can somehow wrest control of the airport from LAWA, which seems intent on strangling what little life remains there. If the city could gain control and lower the cost structure, perhaps ONT can become a niche gateway for ULCCs. After all, people will do crazy things just to save $40 by flying Spirit.
I Like ONT and wish it was not in LAWA’s clutches. I picked it out of convenience, it was $30 more to fly from ONT, granted my ticket only cost $107 one way to SFO. But the 2 plus hour drive to LAX was not something I wanted to do. I remember the good old days when I could fly UA express from ONT to LAX then onto OAK or SFO. Not only did it pad my miles and segments, but it was usually cheaper then flying Southwest and let me avoid them.