The number of airline passengers who chose Ontario International Airport (ONT) last year surged to more than 6.4 million, an increase of 12% over 2022 and nearly 850,000 more than pre-pandemic 2019, airport authority officials announced.

The Southern California gateway welcomed more than 6 million domestic passengers and 417,000 international travelers in 2023, increases of 8.4% and 113.5%, respectively. The number of international passengers was an all-time high and broke the previous record of 304,000 set in 2019.

“The year-end numbers demonstrate why ONT is California’s favorite airport among airline passengers,” said Alan D. Wapner, president of the Ontario International Airport Authority (OIAA) Board of Commissioners. “Since the transfer of the airport to local ownership in 2016, we have been laser-focused on developing an aviation gateway that appeals to Inland Empire residents and Southern California visitors, drives the regional economy and serves as a hub for commerce.”

San Bernardino County is a member of the Ontario International Airport Authority.

ONT officials noted the airport’s speedy pandemic recovery in highlighting the strong and steady gains of 2023, which led airports throughout California, along with recent population growth that makes the Inland Empire the 12th largest out of 386 Metropolitan Statistical Areas in the U.S., ahead of San Francisco and just behind No. 11 Boston, according to recent U.S. Census data.

For the month of December, passenger volume was equally robust with the total number of travelers surpassing 551,000, an increase of 15.4% over 2022. Domestic and international travel were higher by 11.7% and 88.9%, respectively.

“December was the 34th consecutive month in which ONT posted year-over-year increases,” said Atif Elkadi, OIAA chief executive officer. “Moreover, with the continued confidence of our airline partners and the growth in capacity at ONT, the trend is expected to continue in 2024. Ontario’s world class facilities, first-rate amenities and services, together with our industry-leading customer experience, appeal to air travelers and our airline partners, and continue to set an example for airports across the region and the country.”

Ontario International led all California airports in the prestigious J.D. Power 2023 North America Airport Satisfaction Study which rated airports on six factors (in order of importance): terminal facilities; airport arrival/departure; baggage claim; security check; check-in/baggage check; and food, beverage and retail.

In addition, the surge in international traffic was a significant factor in the decision by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to open a new Global Entry Enrollment Center at ONT’s International Terminal in December 2023, allowing travelers across Southern California convenient access to this popular program.

“We are immensely proud of our performance in 2023 and look forward to more good things to come in 2024,” Elkadi said.

Lower air cargo volume in December and for 2023 reflected ongoing global economic trends with total freight volume down 12.5% for the month and 11.8% over the year. According to a recent report by FreightWaves, “most experts think the market won’t really begin to recover from the prolonged downturn until the second half of 2024 because of mixed economic conditions.”

“Ontario is at the crossroads of the goods movement industry in California and ONT will always be an attractive destination for shippers and retailers,” Elkadi said.

Additional County Update News – January 18, 2024

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