O.C. offering incentives for flights to Mexico, Hawaii and D.C.

Orange County is offering more than $1 million in incentives to airlines willing to make direct flights to Hawaii, Mexico and Washington, D.C., out of John Wayne Airport.

The last flight to Hawaii out of Orange County was in 2010, the year Continental Airlines pulled out of the market. John Wayne has never had direct service to the nation's capital.

Orange County supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a package of $1.3 million in incentives and rent discounts to entice airlines. The largest chunk, nearly $900,000, will go toward retaining the current direct flights to Mexico City and Cabo San Lucas.

The county also has applied to be designated a port of entry, which, if granted, would require the federal government to start covering the cost of customs at John Wayne. John Wayne has picked up the bill on customs processing since introducing the Mexico flights last year.

The incentive program is an aggressive effort by an airport that has long been seen as a regional hub. John Wayne, though, is now the third busiest airport in Southern California, after LAX and San Diego International.

To court a flight to Washington, Orange County is offering $300,000 in terminal rent credit for an airline willing to provide direct service to Washington, using either Dulles International Airport, Reagan Washington National Airport or Baltimore Washington International Airport.

The D.C.-bound flights must run at least five days a week for 12 months, beginning in 2014.

The deal also extends $50,000 in credit for an airline willing to provide twice-a-week flights to Hawaii.

Aloha Airlines offered the first-ever Hawaii service from Orange County to Honolulu in May 2001 and, a month later, to Maui. But both ended in March 2008 when the company went out of business, said Jenny Wedge, spokeswoman for John Wayne Airport.

In the spring of 2010, Continental Airlines marketed a direct flight to Honolulu. But the service ended two years later.

Do writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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