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Airing JWA traveler incentives

Watchdog group will invite public to discuss fare rebates and other perks intended to divert traffic away from the busy John Wayne Airport.

November 17, 2009|By Brianna Bailey

The airport watchdog group AirFair hopes a plan to lure Disneyland-bound tourists to Ontario International Airport with incentives like fare rebates and shuttle rides will help siphon some passengers away from John Wayne Airport.

“We think it’s a win-win situation for all involved,” said AirFair President Melinda Seeley. “This would take a percentage of our air traffic and divert it to Ontario, which is dying for more passengers.”

The group will host a forum on the issue at noon Dec. 4 at the Santa Ana Heights Fire Station Community Room, 20401 Acacia Ave.

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Los Angeles World Airports, which runs LAX and Ontario Airport, is working on a plan to give incentives to Disneyland visitors who fly through Ontario. The plan includes offering a shuttle service to Disneyland from Ontario and offering discounts on park admission and rebates on airfares. Los Angeles World Airport officials are working on creating a partnership with Disneyland to promote travel through the Ontario airport.

Passenger levels at Ontario have steadily dwindled over the past year. Ontario is expected to serve about 4.83 million passengers this year, the lowest numbers the airport has seen in 20 years.

A recent study found 1.3 million passengers who pass through John Wayne Airport each year are headed to Disneyland. Diverting some of those passengers to Ontario could minimize growth at John Wayne.

John Wayne is limited through a legal agreement in how many passengers it can serve. The airport can only serve 10.3 million passengers until 2011, when the passenger cap is upped to 10.8 million. Concerned about the noise jets cause as they fly over residential areas in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa, AirFair wants to keep a lid on passenger levels at John Wayne.

About 8.9 million passengers passed through John Wayne in 2008, compared with about 9.9 million in 2007, but passenger levels are on the rise again as the country slowly pulls itself out of a recession.

John Wayne will always be in the business of accommodating some of the millions of tourists who visit Disneyland each year, but Ontario might be well suited to shoulder some of the burden, said Jenny Wedge, a spokeswoman for John Wayne Airport.

“Ontario is in a different position than we are in that they have the ability to offer long-haul, international flights, which could be appealing to the Disney traveler,” Wedge said. “Ontario is also in a position to increase passenger travel, much more than we are.”

No matter the incentives, some tourists will always choose to fly through John Wayne, simply because it is closer to Disneyland, she said.

“We know that passengers who use John Wayne Airport come here for convenience and a first-class experience,” Wedge said. “Many passengers also know that John Wayne Airport is the closest airport to Disneyland Resort. For some passengers, this will be the key to their decision making when planning their visit.”


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