California’s Ontario International airport continues to rebuild its passenger base after being hit hard by the US financial crisis and its ensuing recession

8 May, 2019

Ontario International airport has logged solid passenger growth during the last few years, after battling shirking passenger levels after the US economic downturn. The airport marked a major milestone in 2018 with the launch of long haul flights to Taiwan.

After passenger levels peaked at 7 million in 2007, Ontario airport suffered negative growth for the next six years, driven largely by the financial crisis and ensuing recession in the US. But as the US economy recovered, Ontario International began to post positive passenger growth in 2013. Its passenger levels jumped 12.4% year-on-year in 2018 to five million; however that is still below peak levels it achieved more than a decade ago.

The recovery in traffic is welcome for the airport, which has a mix of operators – full service carriers, lower cost hybrid airlines and ULCCs. Southwest Airlines is the airport’s largest operator, accounting for nearly 52% of departing frequencies.

CHART - Southwest Airlines is the largest operator at Ontario International, accounting for more than half of flight movementsSource: CAPA - Centre for AViation and OAG (data: w/c 06-May-2019)

Ontario International has also welcomed flights from ULCC Frontier Airlines over the last couple of years, and presently (as of early May-2019), the airline operates service from the airport to Denver and San Antonio.

In late 2018, JetBlue Airways returned to the airport with service to New York JFK, a route the airline launched in 2000, but shuttered in 2008. JetBlue cited several reasons for its return to Ontario International including the fast-growing San Bernadino-Riverside-Ontario metro area and affordable housing the region. The airline also stated the region is on tract to grow by roughly 2 million over the next three decades.

Airport data shows that most of the large US airlines posted passenger growth in 2018, with Alaska Air Group and Southwest recording the largest increases of 9% and 8%, respectively.

In 2019, Ontario International has welcomed new service from Delta Air Lines to its Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International hub. The airline boasts it is the only airline serving the hub from all four of the largest in the Los Angles region – Los Angeles International, Orange County, Ontario International and Burbank.

Ontario International celebrated a major network victory in 2018 when China Airlines introduced daily service to Taiwan. It is significant as it is now the only airport in the Los Angeles area outside of Los Angeles International featuring long haul service.

During its first year of operations on the route, China Airlines rejigged some of its flights times and replaced a Boeing 777 with a smaller gauge Airbus A350. The airport recently stated the airline transported roughly 175,000- passengers during its first year operating the route, which was more than 14,000 per month on average. Prior to the launch, China Airlines estimated it would transport 80,000 passengers during the first year of operations.