L.A. Now

New governing body planned for L.A./Ontario International Airport

The city of Ontario and San Bernardino County plan to establish a new governing body for L.A./Ontario International Airport — another step in the effort to wrest control of the struggling facility from Los Angeles.

The Ontario City Council is expected to approve formation of the Ontario International Airport Authority on Tuesday, City Manager Chris Hughes said. San Bernardino County Chief Executive Officer Greg Devereaux said the Board of Supervisors is scheduled to follow suit a week later.

The new five-member commission will consist of elected officials, civic leaders and business operators from the airport's service area, which includes about 7 million residents in four counties, including Los Angeles.

Noting that Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has long supported the idea of spreading airline service to commercial airports throughout the region, Ontario officials say they are open to the possibility that the city of Los Angeles would participate in the new authority.

"Ontario Airport is the most powerful economic engine in the Inland Empire," Ontario City Councilman Alan D. Wapner said. "There is regional consensus that it should be operated by an agency that is responsible and accountable to our residents for its service and performance."

Once rated as one of the best regional airports in the nation, Ontario has seen the number of passengers it serves fall by more than a third since 2007, to 4.6 million passengers last year from 7.2 million. If trends continue, it could lose an additional 400,000 to 500,000 passengers this year.

Ontario officials say local control of the airport is needed because the current operator, Los Angeles World Airports, has not done enough to lower costs for airlines and counteract the effects of the recession. World Airports officials say the sluggish economy is the sole reason for the airport's dramatic decline.

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