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John Wayne Airport Adds First International Flight

Travel: Alaska Airlines begins daily nonstop service to Vancouver. Growing demand puts focus on capacity at regional hubs.

April 29, 2002|BONNIE HARRIS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Although plans for an international airport at the former El Toro Marine base were ceremoniously scrapped last week, nearby John Wayne Airport in Orange County quietly became one on its own Sunday.

The addition of Alaska Airlines' nonstop daily service to Vancouver, Canada, marked the first international flight from Orange County in the airport's 60-year history, said Ann McCarley, airport spokeswoman.

McCarley said the new service is still within John Wayne's noise and passenger limits and will not change airport operations. The county limits to 73 the number of commercial flights allowed each day by the loudest aircraft and a maximum 8.4 million passengers per year.

"Certainly we're happy we can now offer international service to Canada," McCarley said. "But it's basically up to the individual carriers where they want their services to be within those restrictions, not us."

The issue of regional airport capacities is of concern now that an El Toro airport--which could have accommodated as many as 30 million passengers by 2025--is no longer an option. The growing demand for air travel in Southern California probably will be redistributed to Los Angeles, San Diego, Ontario and, despite current restrictions, John Wayne, or the region could lose lucrative international air service to other states.

Ontario has provided international service since 1993, even though it carried the "international airport" title since 1946 due to cargo flights it handled then to the South Pacific, a spokesman said. AeroMexico is Ontario's only international carrier.

Alaska Air Group Inc.'s Alaska Airlines is promoting its Vancouver service from John Wayne with an inaugural fare of $107 each way for travel completed by Aug. 30.

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