After 30 years, Los Angeles agrees to give up ownership of suburban Ontario airport

IndustriesAssociated Press

Los Angeles has agreed to give up LA/Ontario International Airport, returning the struggling complex to local control after three decades and ending a long legal battle, it was announced Thursday.

The tentative deal disclosed by the mayors of the two cities calls for Ontario to pay Los Angeles World Airports $190 million over 10 years to reimburse it for the cost of running and improving the airport located 35 miles east of downtown Los Angeles.

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The Ontario International Airport Authority also will assume airport debts, bringing the cost of the deal to about $250 million.

The agreement also requires Ontario to take steps to protect jobs of airport employees.

The deal still requires approval from both city councils, both airport authorities and the Federal Aviation Administration. The process is expected to start in October and take about a year.

"I have supported the transfer of ONT to local control since my first day in office and I am thrilled that we can stop litigation and focus on a partnership that expands Southern California's commitment to superior air travel," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said.

The deal will "restore the region's most important economic and jobs engine," Ontario Mayor pro tem Alan D. Wapner said.

Ontario turned over airport operations to Los Angeles in 1967 and sold it outright in 1985.

In recent years the facility has seen passenger totals decline and lost airlines. The passenger count fell from 7.2 million in 2007 to 3.9 million in 2013, although it rebounded slightly last year.

The facility now has around 60 daily departures by eight carriers.

Ontario sued two years ago for breach of contract. It blamed airport woes on neglect and deliberate actions by Los Angeles World Airports, which also operates Los Angeles International Airport and Van Nuys Airport.

The airport operator denied it was trying to reduce Ontario's business in favor of LAX. The lawsuit was scheduled to have gone to trial on Aug. 17.