Ontario, California – March 18, 2020) – The following statement should be attributed to Mark Thorpe, chief executive officer, Ontario International Airport Authority:
As the United States faced the increasing threat posed by the coronavirus last month, we took action to protect Ontario International Airport (ONT) customers and those who work in the airport. We worked closely with federal, state and local public health officials and our aviation partners to determine the appropriate steps to adjust operations and effectively manage the flow of airline passengers through our airport.
In late February, we enhanced efforts to keep ONT facilities clean. We increased the frequency and intensity of cleanings of restrooms and other public areas of our passenger facilities. Handrails, door handles, armrests, countertops, and other common surfaces became focal points for high-powered disinfectants. More hand sanitizing stations were added throughout our terminals and airfield facilities. In our security screening areas, we had previously incorporated new passenger screening trays treated with powerful antimicrobial technology to inhibit the growth of bacteria on the surface of the bins used by travelers at TSA checkpoints. Ontario was the first U.S. airport to receive the new trays from SecurityPoint Media in partnership with Microban International.
More recently, we updated our sick leave and telecommuting policies to provide flexibility for employees and reassure any who might become ill or need to care for the family at home. In the event an airport employee contracts the coronavirus, for example, our sick leave policy provides paid administrative leave for the duration of the illness. Additionally, our human resource policies have been adjusted for qualified employees to work from locations away from the airport.
While we remain vigilant in our efforts to keep our airport free of harmful bacteria and viruses, we are also committed to collaborating with our air carriers, concessionaires and other business partners to adapt our airport operations to the downturn in air travel which we are now seeing on a significant scale.
We will, for instance, support our airline and car rental partners in providing a limited amount of storage for aircraft and vehicles that are taken out of circulation as customer demand decreases. In addition, we are working closely with retail and dining concessionaires to adjust hours of operation in response to changes in airline schedules to ensure service is available for travelers when they are in our airport terminals.
As for customers continuing to patronize ONT, we are heartened by the numbers of passengers who traveled through our airport in February. Total passenger volume rose to nearly 420,000, an increase of 15.5% over February last year. Domestic travel increased 16.2% to more than 399,000, while the number of international passengers rose to almost 21,000, up 3.2% from February 2019. For the first two months of the year, travel through ONT increased 15.1% over the January-February period last year to more than 874,000.
At the same time, commercial freight shipments totaled more than 55,000 tons, almost 12% higher than last February. On a year-to-date basis, cargo shipments rose more than 8% to 116,000 tons.
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We do anticipate volumes to be significantly lower for the month of March as the travel industry reels from restrictions on international air travel and reduced market demand for domestic travel. Aviation industry analysts predict world air traffic will decline this year for the first time since 2009.
As we continue to follow the guidance from our federal and state elected leaders and public health authorities, we remain confident in the future of air travel and the well-being of our airport, airport workers, business partners and the traveling public. We are steadfast in the belief that our public health leaders will guide us through this temporary disruption to our way of life and the threat posed by the coronavirus will be overcome. There can be no doubt that we will be stronger for the experience because, as Americans, that’s how we fly.