More than 500 business and regional leaders gathered on Wednesday, November 1, for Ontario International Airport’s annual State of the Airport event, and to celebrate seven years of local control of the Californian gateway.
Serving one of the most dynamic population and economic centres in the United States, ONT will serve more than six million passengers this year, its highest annual total since 2008 – years before the airport’s return to local ownership in 2016.
Its growth has earned it the title of fastest-growing airport in the US five years running from Global Traveler magazine and has helped ONT land more than $88 million in state and federal grants in recent years to enhance the airport’s safety, security and convenience.
“We took local control seven years ago, and so much has happened since then. And it’s all because of you,” Alan Wapner, president of the Ontario International Airport Authority (OIAA) Board of Commissioners, told the crowd at the Ontario Convention Center.
“Ontario International Airport is your airport. It was you – this community and you community leaders – who insisted that Ontario be returned to local control.”
OIAA CEO, Atif Elkadi, enthused: “A year ago, we gathered here at the Ontario Convention Center to celebrate six years of local ownership. Twelve months later, we’re celebrating 100 years since the opening of the first landing strip of what was to become Ontario International Airport. Yes, we are now a century old – and we’ve never looked better.”
A highlight of Wednesday’s event was a fireside chat with Ed Bastian, president and CEO of Delta Air Lines, who congratulated ONT for its focus on “making this a welcoming environment for air travel. You have a lot of opportunity for growth, I do see that.”
Bastian noted that a return of international travel demand following the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly to and from Europe, bodes well for the aviation industry moving forward.
“It’s been at least 18 months since the world decided to return to normal, and we’ve seen an explosion in travel,” said Bastian.
At ONT, international travel demand has more than doubled in the past year, with daily flights to Taiwan, Mexico and El Salvador. Ontario also offers nonstop flights to a large number of major international gateway airports, including JFK in New York, Atlanta, Dallas, Charlotte and Phoenix.
Among the investments highlighted during Wednesday’s State of the Airport event were a new Simplified Arrivals programme, which uses biometrics to more quickly move arriving passengers through the international screening process, and a new Global Entry Enrollment Center, which allows local residents to sign up for this convenient international travel benefit without having to travel to Los Angeles.
Other highlights of the last 12 months have included:
ONT receiving the highest ranking among California airports in JD Power’s newly released Customer Satisfaction survey and was recently honoured with a national Great Place to Work designation.
The airport’s Project Management team has overseen major capital improvements, including a state-of-the-art Baggage Recapitalization project, which is bringing enhanced security screening of outgoing baggage; the reconstruction of runways and taxiways; and ongoing investment in new restaurants, stores and other amenities to enhance the customer experience.
Other new customer-service enhancements include the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Program and ONT+, which allows the non-traveling public to secure a digital visitor pass to drop off or meet friends and family directly at the gate. More than 4,000 people a month now use ONT+.
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