In the first four months of 2004, the overall number of passengers
increased by 14.4%, with double-digit increases in February, March
"Now it's not a trend; it's the reality of John Wayne Airport,"
McCusker said. "We're seeing increased passenger levels each and
He attributed the gains to a strong local economy, increasing
business travel and Orange County's many tourist attractions.
John Wayne is the only commercial airport in Orange County and one
of the most heavily regulated airports in the country, McCusker said.
Governed by an agreement among the Newport Beach-based Airport
Working Group and Stop Polluting Our Newport, Orange County and the
city of Newport Beach, the airport's passenger levels may not exceed
10.3 million passengers a year. A previous cap of 8.4 million
passengers per year was increased to 10.3 million in 2003.
The airport served 8.5 million passengers last year and expects
more than 9 million this year, McCusker said.
Orange County Supervisor Jim Silva, whose district includes
Newport Beach, said the local demand for air travel has been on the
rebound since an initial drop-off after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist
"I think that [John Wayne Airport is] considered to be, not only
by people in Orange County but people that want to come to Southern
California, to be a very user-friendly airport," he said.
Silva expects the airport to reach its maximum capacity but
opposes any future expansion because it negatively affects nearby
homes, he said.
"I think [John Wayne] was never built to be a commercial airport
in that capacity," Silva said, but he added that options for more
airport capacity are nil since voters rejected an airport proposal
for the closed El Toro Marine Air Base.
"That was the only game in town, the El Toro airport, and that
went down in defeat," he said.