SoCal, So Easy

Ontario International Airport is leading the charge for recovery
By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Ontario International Airport/Submitted

Good things are happening at Ontario International Airport, according to Chief Executive Officer Atif Elkadi, thanks to rebounding passenger numbers, new amenities, and the ease of reaching the facility.

“Really, what we’ve seen in the last two months — March and April — are basically above our pre-pandemic passenger numbers,” Elkadi says. 

“In March, our passenger numbers were higher than the same month in 2019; a little over 4% of 2019.”

Now he’s gearing up for a busy summer season. Ontario International Airport (ONT) is expecting 1.7 million passengers to pass through the airport through Labor Day. That number also surpasses 2019.

“Throughout this whole process of recovering from the pandemic, we led the charge for recovery on the passenger side,” he says. “That’s been extremely exciting.”

Ontario International Airport is the fastest-growing airport in the United States, according to Global Traveler, a publication for frequent fliers. 

Located in the Inland Empire, the airport is approximately 37 miles east of Pasadena. The full-service airport offers nonstop commercial jet service to 33 major airports in the United States, Mexico, Central America and Taiwan. 

The Ontario International Airport tagline is “SoCal, So Easy,” and Elkadi takes that to heart.

“Your average time from check-in to going through security and getting to the gate is about 13 minutes,” he says. 

“It’s a very easy airport to get in and out of. The great thing is we have such a great partnership with the TSA. They do a great job of getting them through security checkpoints.”

The new Aspire premium lounges make traveling comfortable and convenient for passengers. 

Officials for the Ontario International Airport Authority and Swissport International AG opened ONT’s two Aspire Lounges — one in each of the airport’s two terminals. 

The OIAA Board of Commissioners recently approved an agreement with Swissport to operate the premium lounges under the company’s Aspire Airport Lounges brand. 

Swissport, which operates 64 lounges at 38 airports worldwide, expanded into the United States in February with the opening of a refurbished lounge in San Diego.

The lounges are open to all Ontario International Airport travelers. Guests receive a wide variety of amenities that include hot and cold food and beverages, relaxing seating with ample power outlets, high-speed Wi-Fi and timely flight information.

“We’re pleased to welcome Swissport and Aspire Airport Lounges to Ontario,” says Alan D. Wapner, president of the OIAA board of commissioners. 

“These new premium lounges add to the excitement and momentum that has been building at ONT and reflects our commitment to provide our customers with the best amenities and experience possible.”

The Aspire Lounge in Terminal 2 is open from 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 8 to 11 p.m., and until midnight Wednesdays.

The lounge in Terminal 4 is available from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. The lounge is open to all passengers for $37 per adult.

Visits can be pre-booked at The Aspire Lounges offer a discounted “thank-you” rate for military and emergency personnel at $30 per adult.

“It doesn’t matter what airline you’re flying, anybody can use the lounge,” Elkadi says.

Throughout the summer and into October, Ontario International Airport will see the addition of Subway, Chick-fil-A, a duty-free shop and a restaurant/brewery with a Topgolf swing suite.

Hudson — which has more than 1,000 stores in airports, commuter hubs, landmarks and tourist destinations in North America — is bringing Evolve by Hudson to Ontario International Airport, too.

“Our new Evolve store will transform larger retail footprints, with the existing Hudson convenience model in mind, to curate a multibrand concept that will allow Hudson to continuously innovate for the modern travel retail environment now and into the future,” says Brian Quinn, executive vice president and deputy chief executive officer of Hudson.

Each Evolve store will be designed with a wide-open storefront, a footprint of at least 2,000 square feet, and digital signage on the store exterior, providing a glimpse into the brand offerings from the concourse.

Once inside the store, guests will navigate to ship-in-shop walls. Various checkout options will be available.

“It’s really nice to have this opportunity to have an amazing board of commissioners,” Elkadi says. 

“They have been very clear on the direction, and we have an amazing group of people who work here. The community has been extremely supportive. They’re big proponents of the airport and the access it gives them to the rest of the world.”

That isn’t limited to humans. During the pandemic, Ontario International Airport acted as transportation for supplies for the western half of the United States.

“Cargo has always been very strong at this airport,” he says. 

“It was stronger during COVID. Other communities throughout the country were having challenges with unemployment, jobs, etc. Our partners here are continuing to hire like Amazon, FedEx and UPS. E-commerce became a big part of everybody’s lives during pandemic. Getting those goods to the final destination was our job.”

As “huge economic driver for the region,” Ontario International Airport employs 50,000 people and boasts a “great partnership” with San Bernardino County. 

“It’s very positive, and it’s very exciting to see what the future holds for this airport,” he says. 

Ontario International Airport

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