Ontario sues Los Angeles for return of airport

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ONTARIO, Calif. (AP) — The city of Ontario sued Los Angeles to regain control of struggling LA/Ontario International Airport, claiming its giant southern neighbor has welched on a 50-year-old agreement to promote and expand the facility.

The suit, filed Monday in Riverside County Superior Court, names the city, its Board of Airport Commissioners and Los Angeles World Airports, the facility’s operator. It asks the court to end a 1967 agreement that resulted in Los Angeles taking control in 1985 and turn over supervision to a local authority.

The airport east of Los Angeles has been neglected and mismanaged and now is at a “crisis point,” the suit contends, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The airport has been hemorrhaging passengers and flights while the passenger load is up at LAX. Fewer than 4 million people are expected to use the Ontario airport this year, down nearly 50 percent from a 2007 peak of 7.2 million.

The 25-page suit contends that officials breached the 1967 contract by failing to properly market the airport, reduce the high costs there for airlines, bring in and retain service or follow through on plans to redistribute air traffic throughout the region, the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin reported.

Los Angeles officials have argued that the mid-sized airport is one of several that has fallen victim to the recession and that efforts to lure back airlines have failed.

“Anyone following Southern California airport conditions over the past five years can only conclude that as long as Ontario International’s fate lies within Los Angeles’ control, the airport’s condition will continue to deteriorate to the detriment of the entire region,” Ontario City Councilman Alan Wapner said.

A call to airport representatives seeking comment was not immediately returned Tuesday.

Ontario has battled for several years to take back the airport. Negotiations with Los Angeles officials began late last year but broke off with Ontario rejecting LA’s offer to sell for $474 million — nearly double Ontario’s offer of $250 million.

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