Related link: Passenger traffic

ONTARIO - It was a dismal Christmas for LA/Ontario International Airport, which had 7.3 percent fewer travelers use the airport in December from the same month in 2011.

ONT, which has seen a slight drop in passenger traffic for most of the year, finished the year with a 5.4 percent decline in traffic compared with 2011, according to figures released this week by Los Angeles World Airports.

Brett Snyder, a former airline manager and author of The Cranky Flier, said December's drop can be attributed to a trend among ONT airlines.

"It was mostly a combination of airlines shedding away one flight a day in a variety of (destinations). The issue is losing one frequency and optimizing their flights," he said.

Snyder compared a week's flight schedule for carriers in December 2011 to the same time frame in 2012 and found that some of the decline was offset by airlines who added seats on other flights.

A total of 4.3 million passengers traveled through ONT in 2012, a decline of 246,446 from 2011.

The figure is a massive drop from 2007 when the airport handled 7.2 million passengers, nearly 3 million more than last year.

There was a bit of positive news at ONT as air cargo finished the year with almost a 9 percent increase from 2011. A total of 454,800 tonnage of cargo was processed through the airport, up 8.9 percent from the previous year.

LAWA officials announced Monday that Los Angeles International Airport, for the year, had 63.7 million passengers use the airport, a 3 percent increase from 2011. LAX ended 2012 with a 5 percent increase in passenger traffic for December compared with the same month in 2011.

LAWA manages ONT, LAX and Van Nuys airports.

Ontario Councilman Alan Wapner said he was not surprised by the downward trend at ONT. Wapner has served as the city's liaison in its effort to regain control of the airport.

"We will continue to see downward declines until local control is achieved and prices could become more competitive by offering more incentives in better economic conditions for the airlines to do business in," he said.

But airport officials earlier this year announced that cost-cutting measures had saved carriers $7 million in 2012.

LAWA officials are working on a plan to create a consortium with airlines that will transfer responsibility of terminal custodial, passenger boarding bridge maintenance, and baggage system maintenance to the carriers. It is expected to result in additional savings for the carriers.

On top of that, ONT officials welcomed the year with the airport's first new air service in 18 months - a nonstop daily flight to Reno. The air service is only temporary.

While the Ontario Airport Alliance is currently in negotiations with Los Angeles officials about the transfer of the airport to local control, Los Angeles Councilman Bill Rosendahl has said he is not in favor in selling the airport.

Rosendahl has proposed connecting ONT to rail or local ground transportation in an effort to attract more international flights to the medium-hub airport. A report on the issue is expected in about a month.

Bertha Washington is fed up with the situation at ONT and the political fighting.

"This is crazy what is happening to us and I detest it. It wasn't this way when it was Ontario Airport, you could get a flight," said Washington, who resides in La Verne and has been using ONT for more than 30 years.

The current conditions at the Inland Empire airport has made it her last choice when booking flights to New York. Washington said if she flew to the East Coast out of ONT it would take her at least 12 hours because of connections and layovers.

With the lack of direct flights, and John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana being too far away, Washington said she has no option than to fly out of LAX.

But flying out of LAX is not ideal, either, she said. 

She typically uses a shared-shuttle service to get into LAX, but if her flight leaves LAX at 6 a.m. that means Washington has to be picked up at 3 a.m.

Sharing a shuttle costs $50 for a one-way trip and if she can't find someone to share her shuttle on the way back, Washington said she has to pay the full $105 tab for the ride.

"We have this brand new airport and I can't use it," Washington said.

liset.marquez@inlandnewspapers.com

909-483-8556

@Dbontarionow