L.A. Now Live Chat: Inland Empire and L.A. haggle over airport

April 04, 2013|By Joseph Serna
  • Passengers head to their gates at LA/Ontario International Airport.
Passengers head to their gates at LA/Ontario International Airport. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles…)

Inland Empire officials seeking control of LA/Ontario International Airport are balking at an unprecedented demand by Los Angeles that they buy the struggling operation for hundreds of millions of dollars.

Join us at 9 a.m. as we discuss the debate on what an aiport -– at least the one in Ontario -– is worth with Times reporter Dan Weikel.

Inland Empire officials assert the facility, 37 miles west of downtown Los Angeles, has a negative market value due to its severe decline during the recession and its uncertain future.

They note that of the eight U.S. airports that have shifted ownership from one government agency to another over the last 20 years, not one involved a sale like that envisioned by Los Angeles.

The officials counter that the price estimates are unrealistic. They say that Ontario — once the linchpin in a plan to more evenly spread air traffic across the busy Los Angeles region — has lost almost 40% of its passengers, noting that revenue is declining and high costs for airlines have made it difficult to restore service.

The newly formed Ontario International Airport Authority and the Ontario City Council met in closed sessions earlier this week to discuss their options in the talks with Los Angeles, such as potential counteroffers and the possibility of litigation.

Serious discussions over control of the airport began late last year after the Los Angeles City Council rejected an offer by Ontario officials, which included making a $50-million payment and retiring the airport's remaining debt of about $70 million from the construction of two passenger terminals.

Inland Empire officials believe the airport can be a much more vibrant economic driver for Riverside and San Bernardino counties. They contend that Los Angeles officials — who also manage Los Angeles International Airport and one of the nation's busiest general aviation centers in Van Nuys — have not done enough to halt Ontario's severe decline.

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