Monday, November 8, 2010

Aeromexico returns to Ontario with seasonal flight

With the start of the holiday season, Aeromexico will resume international flights out of L.A./Ontario International Airport (ONT/KONT) this month. The Mexico City-based airline, one of the largest in Mexico, exited Ontario in February, leaving the airport with no direct international flights.

Its return, with daily flights to Guadalajara Internaternational (GDL/MMGL), is good news for the airport, which has seen its passenger count drop by 32 percent between 2007 and 2009.

"It's absolutely terrific," said Maria Tesoro-Fermin, an airport spokeswoman. "We've got international flights back and perhaps it's a sign people are starting to travel again, at least from the Inland Empire, so we're very excited."

The first Aeromexico flight arrives in Ontario on Nov. 20. The flight leaves Ontario the next day at 1:15 a.m.

But although Aeromexico's return is a positive sign for the Ontario airport, the addition of flights does not necessarily mean more passengers, said Jack Keady, a Playa del Ray-based transportation analyst. In an area continuing to grapple with high foreclosure and unemployment rates, residents may need some convincing through marketing efforts to book the Aeromexico flights.

"The bigger issue is will these flights have staying power," Keady said.

The duration of the Mexican airline's return to Ontario remained unclear. In a statement announcing additions to its U.S. flights for the holidays, Aeromexico said it was resuming "seasonal service" from Ontario to Guadalajara. Tesoro-Fermin said the carrier's stay in Ontario is "indefinite," but will run into 2011. She also noted that airlines tend to change their schedules with little notice. Aeromexico could not be reached for comment.

Keady said in describing flight additions as seasonal, airlines often mean they are keeping flights in place for the peak winter season. But Aeromexico may also be taking a wait and see approach in Ontario.

"The other thing is seasonal could mean you don't want to commit year-round until you see what the traffic is," Keady said.

Aeromexico began flying out of Ontario in 2000, offering flights twice a week to Guadalajara.

The airport ended 2009 up 1.96 percent in the year's international passenger traffic from 2008, according to statistics from Los Angeles World Airports, which owns the Ontario airport and LAX.

But since October 2009, it has been seeing declines each month compared to the year before.

The airport was down 16.6 percent in 2008 in international passengers from the year before, and down 49 percent in 2007.

(Rebecca U. Cho - Inland Valley Daily Bulletin)

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