The Inland Empire was one of the most hard-hit areas of the Great Recession. Unemployment there is still in double digits. Democratic U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein is concerned the decline in traffic at Ontario International Airport will have a "long lasting, negative regional impact on the Inland Empire."
The airport has been operated by the city of Los Angeles for almost half a century.
In a letter to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Feinstein is urging cooperation between Los Angeles and Inland Empire leaders to restore the economic health of the airport. She says she's been approached by mayors, county supervisors and community leaders from the Inland Empire who are concerned about economic growth.
Ontario lost nearly half its flights after the 2007 recession, shutting down gates and losing both jobs and concessions at the airport. At the same time, to cover costs of operating the airport, fares have gone up. Feinstein suggests dropping fees, inviting new airlines to land at Ontario, improving access to the airport, and a better marketing campaign to turn the facility around.
“I urge you to exhaust all options," she wrote, "and to sit down with leaders in Ontario and the County of San Bernardino to bring Ontario Airport back to economic vitality.”
Mayor Garcetti is on vacation, but spokesman Jeff Millman says the city is "glad to resume productive discussions with Ontario officials to establish the best outcome for the parties involved."
The city of Ontario has sued to regain control of the airport, which they accuse L.A. of mismanaging. That lawsuit was put on hold this month as both sides try to negotiate a solution.