Monday, August 17, 2015

Some of the @CassieMacDuff proposed changes to ONT are easier to make than others

Now that Ontario International Airport is on the road to local control, people are thinking about how local control can improve the airport. Cassie MacDuff, whose coverage of the LAWA-ONT dispute earned her attention from former LAWA management, has provided a wish list of things that she'd like to see in the future.

The first three items on her wish list? The return of JetBlue to the airport, more flights to East Coast destinations, and more flights to West Coast destinations.

There's only one problem with these three wishes - in the short term, they're all wishful thinking.

The new airport authority cannot order JetBlue to return, and cannot order the airlines to increase their schedules. That is a function of the market, and even if ONT slashed its high landing fees, no airline is going to institute new flights until there is a proven demand for them.

However, MacDuff's fourth wish is something over which the airport can exert more control - increasing the operating hours of the in-airport businesses.

L.A. World Airports’ bright idea for ONT was replacing shuttered restaurants with vending machines, thereby passing up a huge business opportunity.

Travelers have a lot of time to kill inside airports, since modern-day security requires them to arrive two hours before takeoff. Somebody could make good money off those bored, weary patrons.

ONT needs to win back the 3 million passengers lost since 2007 under L.A.’s ownership. A full complement of restaurants, coffee shops and gift shops would help.

Requiring concessionaires to have stores open during peak travel hours would be smart. Too often, passengers are met with barred shop doors as they await flights.

Now I'll admit that the airport doesn't have complete control over this. It could go to the gift shop and tell it to stay open until midnight, and the gift shop could reply by saying it will take its business elsewhere. But this is something where the new airport authority could possibly negotiate some changes - stay open until midnight, and we'll cut your rent.

Now if I were to insert my wishful thinking into this, I'd add another request of the gift shops. But let me explain. In order to hear Kevin Costner and Modern West in Folsom earlier this month, I had to board a plane to Sacramento - obviously, from ONT. When I arrived at the airport, I had an assignment - find the Ontario shirts that can only be purchased in the airport gift shops. Only one problem - the gift shops have discontinued the Ontario shirts, and only sell California shirts (and really bad California shirts at that). So if I can engage in my wild wishes, I wish that the gift shops would return to selling Ontario stuff.

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