On August 27, 2013 the Riverside City Council received a briefing from Ontario International Airport (ONT) Manager Jess Romo. The presentation by Romo opened the door for a candid discussion about Ontario operations, challenges and opportunities, as well as the ensuing ‘battle’ between LAX and ONT.
According to Romo, the biggest challenge for ONT is that commercial carriers look at a region’s average household income as one of the key factors when determining to add more services to one area over another. While Riverside and San-Bernardino counties have a large population base, other peer airports such as Santa Ana (SNA) have more households that fall into the leisure (average household income greater than $75K/year) and business (average household income over $150K/year) traveler categories. Riverside City Councilmember Gardner questioned this statistic, explaining that fringe areas that include West Covina and Claremont should also be accounted for as the ONT service territory doesn’t just stop at the county lines.
It is for this reason that a Riverside contingent, organized by the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce and included the Riverside Convention & Visitors Bureau, met with Southwest Airlines officials earlier in August.
“We felt it was important to help increase the awareness of what executives can’t see in a demographic report,” explained Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce President/CEO Cindy Roth, adding that activities such as the expansion of the Convention Center and opening of the Riverside Aquatics Center are things airline executives need to consider when evaluating their ONT-based operations.
Debbi Guthrie of the Riverside Convention & Visitors Bureau added that they are committed to helping the airlines know how important they are to helping bring major events to Riverside.
Romo reiterated that he appreciates the partnership with Riverside, and is willing to coordinate more meetings with other airline carriers, expressing the benefit of increased communication and better relationships for expanding Ontario as a location of choice.
While frustration with LAX was expressed by several of the City Councilmembers, Romo responded that he felt the new LA City Mayor was committed to solutions that benefit the region, not just LAX. He concluded by noting that the outlook for ONT is improving as he sees increasing demand from both passengers and the airlines, and added that a new marketing and awareness effort will be launching this month.
To watch the full August 27, 2013 City Council presentation, click here.
For more information on Ontario International Airport, click here.