Ontario International Airport (ONT) is an economic engine for Southern California, generating $3.8 billion a year in activity, supporting 27,800 jobs and serving as the hub of a global logistics network that produces $17.8 billion in economic output, a new study shows.
The analysis, by Oxford Economics, was released Tuesday as more than 300 Inland Empire officials, industry executives and friends of ONT celebrated the aviation gateway’s sixth anniversary under local ownership. The State of the Airport event showcased Ontario’s impressive expansion of flights, destinations and customer amenities over the past six years, its emergence as one of the Top 10 cargo airports in North America and its role as an economic driver across the IE and Southern California.
“As we believed on this day six years ago, Ontario International is more than an airport. It is the heart of one of the fastest-growing population and economic centers in the U.S., providing a foundation for solid economic growth for years to come. And it is the public treasure we envisioned for the City of Ontario and San Bernardino County,” said Alan D. Wapner, President of the Ontario International Airport Authority (OIAA) Board of Commissioners and Mayor pro Tem of the City of Ontario.
The Oxford Economics study incorporated nearly a year’s worth of research, concluding that the overall impact of economic activity at ONT – from airport operations, airlines and their suppliers, government workers, airport concessions and logistics companies – totals $3.8 billion as of 2022. This includes $2.7 billion in visitor spending, Oxford reported.
“Ontario International Airport plays an integral role in the economy of the Southern California region, specifically in and around the Inland Empire,” the report stated, adding that ONT’s economic impact includes $2.2 billion in regional gross domestic product (GDP), which supports 27,800 jobs and results in $571 million a year in local, state and federal taxes.
Oxford also looked at ONT’s role a supply chain hub, analyzing logistics activity in the eight zip codes adjacent to the airport. The results placed Ontario International at the center of a global network that accounts for $17.8 billion in economic output, $9.9 billion of GDP, 122,200 jobs and $2.3 billion in local, state and federal taxes.
“The economic impact of Ontario International Airport is felt across the region and around the world. We’re excited to be able to share our story with the communities and shareholders we serve, and look forward to building on our position as the gateway of choice for millions of Southern Californians,” said OIAA CEO Atif Elkadi.
Since ONT’s return to local ownership on November 1, 2016, passenger volumes have increased by nearly 33%, despite the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic had on global air travel. This year’s passenger totals are expected to reach 5.8 million, the highest level since 2008. Ontario’s 11 domestic and international airlines in November 2022 offer 479 weekly departures and more than 75,000 airline seats to more than two dozen popular nonstop destinations. That’s an increase of 18.9% in departures and 43.4% in seats since 2016.
In recent years, ONT’s cargo facilities have experienced double-digit increases in commercial freight shipments as demand for consumer goods, household supplies and other daily necessities skyrocketed among consumers. Shipments of commercial freight and mail total approximately 75 tons a month, 57% more than 2016.
“The Inland Empire is home to one of the most important supply chain networks in the world, and Ontario International is at the heart of that,” said Curt Hagman, OIAA Commissioner and Chair of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors.
The State of the Airport event also featured an engaging fireside chat with Barry L. Biffle, chief executive officer of Frontier Airlines, a five-year ONT tenant which operates 45 flights a week to six U.S. destinations. The discussion was led by award-winning author Scott McCartney, Travel Editor Emeritus of The Wall Street Journal and writer of the Journal’s popular “Middle Seat” column which was a must-read for travel enthusiasts for two decades.
McCartney and Biffle discussed the airline industry’s pandemic recovery, the future of global air travel and the Frontier’s plans for air travel from ONT.
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