What’s ONT’s tipping point?

LA/Ontario International Airport may be capable of 12 million annual passengers but projections show it may only handle fewer than 4 million passengers this year – 25 percent of its capacity.

And that decline is noticeable in the terminals which are empty and quieter. Less than 70 percent of people now traveling in and out of the airport compared to pique activity only a couple of years ago.

It’s this scenario that has Ontario International Airport Authority president Alan Wapner wondering what is Ontario’s tipping point, what could force the closure of the airport?

“There’s got to be a minimum operating costs at the airport. I want to find out what that is and what’s the tipping point of survival at ONT,” Wapner asked. “People have got to wake up and understand you can’t continue this steep downward spiral into infinity.”

Wapner says he believes there will come a time when the airport does not make enough money to pay the bills. What if Southwest airlines, the biggest carrier at ONT, pulls service, he said.

“I think that would be detrimental to our airport if we lose 50 percent of our flights,” he said.

All it would take is a simple decision from someone far away from Ontario – to pull the plug on service – which could lead to the demise of the airport, he said.

And ONT is not far from only operating one terminal which was a cost-cutting measure once proposal by LAWA, he said. The proposal drew criticism from Ontario officials and was never implemented because of gate issues.

Well, two years later, and it’s sort of happened. Both terminals are now operating at 50 percent of its capacity which Wapner said could equate to the closure of one terminal.

But OIAA executive director Chris Hughes cautioned that the number may not be as easy to determine.

“You’re going to have a hard time getting airline professionals to tell you this is your line,” he said.

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