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Ontario Has Finally Wrested Control of Its Airport From LA

For half a century, LA/Ontario International Airport has played second fiddle to Los Angeles International Airport, and Ontario has had enough. Both have been under the control of Los Angeles World Airports, operator of the city of LA's system of airports, and the Inland Empire airport has found itself often fighting for attention and financial resources. Disgruntled Ontario officials have been trying to wrest control of the airport since 2010, claiming LAWA mismanagement led to a 42 percent decline in air traffic between 2007 and 2014. In 2013, Ontario sued LAWA and Los Angeles to win control of the airport, but right before the case went to trial in August of this year, a $250-million agreement was made to settle the lawsuit. According to the Daily Bulletin, this week the Los Angeles City Council finally signed off on the terms of the settlement, and it looks like a done deal. LA/Ontario International Airport is out of LA's jurisdiction.

The labor unions signed off on the deal on Tuesday, so the LA City Council was the last hurdle in finalizing the deal. Once Ontario gets a certificate of operation from the Federal Aviation Administration in July, the airport will officially be run by the newly formed Ontario International Airport Authority.

It's going to cost them, though. As part of the deal, OIAA has agreed to take on the airport's $60 million debt, pay a flat $30 million up front from its cash reserves, and enter a 10-year payment plan with LAWA, shelling out $50 million in the first five years and $70 million in the next five years. LAWA will also transfer $40 million dollars from Ontario's unrestricted cash accounts over to LAX.

LAWA can use the resources freed up in the deal to focus on the other two airports in their jurisdiction. In addition to the recently departed Ontario International Airport, LAWA controls both LAX and Van Nuys airports. Van Nuys probably won't get much love, though—Los Angeles Councilmember Joe Buscaino says the Ontario transfer will allow LAWA to be "laser-focused on modernizing LAX."

LAX certainly could use the help. In the recently released JD Power 2015 North America Airport Satisfaction Study (via San Gabriel Valley Tribune), LAX ranked twenty-ninth out of the 31 large airports included in the survey. Scores were based on terminal facilities, airport accessibility, security check, baggage claim, check-in/baggage check, and terminal shopping options. Los Angeles International choked big time, pulling in a score of 670 on a 1,000-point scale. That means LAX fared only marginally better than TWO other airports (LaGuardia and Newark).

Luckily, LAWA will have one less airport to worry about as it digs into billions of dollars worth of improvements at LAX. The proposed Landside Access Modernization Program, now undergoing its environmental review process, promises to dramatically change the travel experience at LAX. Over the next decade, the airport plans to consolidate its rental car center, add new pickup and drop-off areas, and link the airport to Metro's Crenshaw Line through a system of people mover trains. The price for all this renovation is a little steep—$5 billion at last check—so that $250 million LAWA is taking off Ontario's hands will certainly come in handy.
· LA City Council approves Ontario airport agreement [Daily Bulletin]
· L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti: $250 million deal reached to transfer ownership of Ontario airport [Daily Bulletin]
· How happy are you with LAX, Ontario and Burbank airports? New study ranks satisfaction [San Gabriel Valley Tribune]
· Struggling Ontario Unimpressed With LA's Efforts to Help [Curbed LA]
· Here's the Mindblowing Plan to Un-Fuck LAX Transportation [Curbed LA]

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

1 World Way, Los Angeles, CA 90045