Wow: Ontario California Sees 900% Year On Year Passenger Increase

Passenger numbers have soared over 900% at California’s Ontario Airport compared to 12 months ago. The airport, which serves as one of the busiest secondary airports in Los Angeles, handled just 28,916 passengers in April 2020. This April, the airport handled 298,784 passengers.

Passenger traffic is up over 900% at Ontario Airport compared to April 2020. Photo: Ontario Airport

The tenfold increase in traffic this April compared to last April may be eye-popping,” said Mark Thorpe, Ontario Airport’s CEO. “But a better reflection of our recovery can be seen in this year’s passenger numbers versus pre-pandemic levels, and those numbers show we are steadily regaining passenger volume as airlines restart suspended services and initiate new routes at Ontario.”

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Passenger numbers through Ontario Airport better than 2020 figures but still lag 2019 numbers

In 2020, Ontario Airport handled 2,538,482 passengers. Nearly half that number (or 1,108,266 passengers)  moved through the airport in the first three months of the year, before the full impact of the travel downturn crunched flights and emptied airports. In 2019, the last full year of normal operations, 5,583,732 passengers moved through Ontario Airport.

Ontario Airport also notes April’s passenger volume of 298,784 was 32% lower than the April 2019 level of nearly 445,000 passengers. While the April 2021 passenger traffic at Ontario falls short of the April 2019 numbers, as Mark Thorpe notes, the airport is clawing back lost volume.

The return of passengers to Ontario Airport reflects a United States-wide trend. The domestic airline industry is bouncing back fast after a slow start to the year. Across the country, there are now around 22,000 daily domestic departures. That’s still short of the 26,000 plus daily domestic airline departures in May 2019. But it is leaps and bounds ahead of the approximately 9,000 daily domestic departures this time last year.

Traffic at Ontario Airport still lags 2019 levels but is recovering well. Photo: Ontario Airport

Ontario Airport bouncing back from a torrid 2020

As Ontario Airport’s experience suggests, this rebound in business is benefiting not just airlines, but airports and the thousands of businesses that depend on a healthy airline industry.

In February 2020, the last month of clear air for Ontario Airport, nine airlines and 419,951 passengers used the airport. It was a bumper month. Airlines touching down at Ontario included Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, China Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, and Volaris.

Two months later, just 28,916 passengers passed through Ontario Airport, a decrease of 93.1%. Flights were curtailed. Notably, China Airlines had abandoned its services into Ontario. Since then, it has been a long road back for Ontario Airport.

China Airlines has suspended its services into Ontario Airport. Photo: Ontario Airport

Before the travel downturn, flights from Ontario headed out to key cities across the United States. In addition, international services jetted off to Taipei, San Salvador, Guatemala City, Mexico City, and Guadalajara. Since the onset of the global travel downturn, Southwest Airlines has commanded a 47% market share at Ontario.

American Airlines had a 20% market share. Trailing were SkyWest Airlines with a 10% market share, Delta Air Lines with a 6.5% market share, and Alaska Airlines with a 4.5% market share. But as business picks up again at the airport, these market shares will shift.

“We are encouraged by the steady pace of recovery compared to pre-pandemic periods. We are optimistic that as more Americans become vaccinated and resume more normal travel routines, particularly during the summer vacation months, Ontario’s recovery pace will accelerate.” Mr Thorpe said.

The continuing recovery of domestic airline travel across the United States will see this happen.