Saturday, May 6, 2017
What Ontario airport plans to do bring back JetBlue, add more service
By Liset Márquez
The Inland Valley (CA) Daily Bulletin
A girl makes her way up to the JetBlue counter with a bag in tow at the Long Beach Airport Aug. 6, 2013.
It’s been nearly 10 years since JetBlue stopped local service, and the Ontario International Airport Authority is making it known that it wants the carrier back.
In September 2008, JetBlue pulled out of Ontario airport, then under control of Los Angeles World Airports, citing the high price of fuel as the reason. At that time the low-cost carrier offered one daily flight, to New York, one of the few connections to the East Coast.
JetBlue has its Southern California hub at Long Beach Airport; however elected officials there nixed a plan earlier this year that would have expanded its service to include international routes. The move prompted a high-ranking JetBlue official to say it would evaluate its future plans for Long Beach and the region.
With ONT’s twin terminals operating at half-strength, Ontario could have a chance to snatch up Long Beach’s lost opportunity.
“Our first focus, and I don’t think its a secret, is going to be JetBlue and getting JetBlue to return here,” authority CEO Kelly Fredericks said.
Ontario officials don’t see their attempts to grow their airport as competition with other regional airports, predicting enough demand for aviation in the future for all.
In a company statement, JetBlue said it is “always looking to expand and fly to the places people want to go. We have no decisions regarding returning to Ontario International Airport to announce at this time.”
Fredericks said the authority will soon be launching — as part of its aggressive air service development program — the FlyOntario program.
“What it is, is essentially resurrecting the SetOntarioFree campaign. We’ve gone back and revisited all the contacts, reached out to them and engaging that group of folks to help to assist us with our air service development issues,” he said at the authority’s April 27 special meeting.
In 2012, Ontario launched the campaign and only a couple of months later, more than 80 cities, organizations and elected officials had passed resolutions backing Ontario’s efforts to gain local control of the airport. Dodgers legend Tommy Lasorda even recorded a commercial for the campaign.
“As the outsider here, I continue to be amazed at the momentum that was achieved by the community and this region to get local ownership,” Fredericks said. “That momentum hasn’t changed. Now the question is, now that we’ve got it, what can we do to help?”
The effort to continue air service growth doesn’t end there. Fredericks said he was tapped by the commissioners to put together an advisory group that specifically addresses business and economic development at Ontario airport.
Fredericks said he is in the process of compiling a list of those representatives, seeking 12 to 15 individuals. He’s been in contact with business leaders in San Bernardino and Riverside counties as well as Orange County and the eastern portion of Los Angeles County.
“I’m asking each of those individuals for four names to help us certainly with air service development but to look at other business initiatives as well,” he said.