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Poll says L.A. voters favor giving up slumping Ontario airport

January 17, 2012 | 12:22 pm

Four people walk toward the escalators leading to the security check-in at the Ontario International Airport Terminal 2 in LA/Ontario last fall. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

A clear majority of likely voters in Los Angeles favors transferring control of struggling L.A./Ontario International Airport from the city to Inland Empire owners, a new public opinion poll shows.

The poll, which is part of a political strategy by the city of Ontario to wrest ownership of the facility away from Los Angeles World Airports, is largely directed at Los Angeles City Council members and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who have resisted the idea.

Pollsters found that 52% of likely Los Angeles voters favor shifting control to Ontario, while 17% are opposed and 31% are undecided. After voters were informed about the details of the proposed transfer, the majority increased dramatically to 77%, while the opposition shrank to 12% and the undecided category fell to 11%.

“The voters of Los Angeles get it,” said Ontario City Councilman Alan Wapner. “We welcome their support in our efforts to regain control of Ontario airport.”

Released Tuesday, the survey is the latest development in an ongoing effort by Ontario and its supporters in the Inland Empire to take over the facility, which under L.A.'s management has lost about a third of its passengers from a high of 7.2 million in 2007.

Los Angeles officials blame the decline on the worst economic recession since World War II, which has caused airlines to reduce service and relocate flights to larger airports, such as Los Angeles International.

The city of Ontario asserts, however, that Los Angeles officials have not aggressively marketed the facility or reduced some of the highest airport costs in the nation for air carriers, which would provide an incentive for them to stay or add service. Los Angeles, which also operates LAX and Van Nuys Airport, began running Ontario International in 1967 and gained ownership of it from Ontario in 1985.

The survey was conducted by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, a public opinion research firm based in Santa Monica. Between Sept. 18 and 22, the company interviewed a random sample of 901 Los Angeles voters likely to cast ballots in the November 2012 presidential election. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

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-- Dan Weikel

Photo: Terminal 2 at the L.A./Ontario International Airport last fall. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

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