Have you ever heard of San Bernardino International Airport?

A rendering of the U.S. Customs facility at San Bernardino International Airport. Credit: J.R. Miller and Associates.

A rendering of the U.S. Customs facility at San Bernardino International Airport. Credit: J.R. Miller and Associates.

San Bernardino International Airport near Los Angeles unveiled its brand new, $20.5 million international terminal last week.

This is not a joke.

An airport you’ve probably never heard of — one without a single scheduled airline now serving it — is dreaming big. (If you have heard of the airport, it might be because its former developer faced conspiracy charges related to construction.) San Bernardino’s airport is located about 60 miles east of downtown Los Angeles and 23 miles east of L.A./Ontario International Airport, which is having its own problems attracting passengers.

My colleague Joe Nelson described San Bernardino’s new building like this:

The 40,000-square-foot, three-story terminal features entry via a jet bridge that should be arriving at the airport within the next two weeks, said A.J. Wilson, the airport’s executive director. It also includes a spacious passenger area, a baggage claim carousel area, administrative offices on two floors, agricultural and customs inspections stations, detention and interview rooms, and a computer and communications center.

Perhaps there’s some opportunity to attract more general aviation tenants, but I’m a bit confused at why San Bernardino thinks it needed a $20.5 million international terminal. Nelson’s story suggests the airport will try first with commercial flights to Mexico, but let’s remember that Ontario airport has tried the same approach, with very limited success.

Another of my colleagues, Jim Steinberg, wrote a follow-up story quoting skeptical experts.

“What market niche are they (SBIA) trying to fill?” John J. Keady, president of Playa del Ray-based Keady Transportation Consulting told Steinberg. Keady said there is no “unseen latent groundswell of demand” that the new terminal will serve.

But San Bernardino Mayor Pat Morris told Steinberg he is optimistic.

“What we have to offer is a new articulation…with a state-of -the-art, high-tech terminal,” Morris said. “This has to be attractive to international carriers as an end destination.”

If you’re wondering, San Bernardino International Airport is the former Norton Air Force Base, which closed in 1994. It has a single 10,000 foot long runway.

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