The Federal Aviation Administration’s most recent forecast of future airline passengers at the region’s airports is an eye opener. In the forecast year 2030, FAA is projecting 49.3 million enplanements (98.6 million total passengers) at Los Angeles International Airport; 3 million enplanements (6 million total passengers) at Ontario International Airport; and 6.6 million enplanements (13.2 million air passengers) for John Wayne Airport. This compares to current figures for LAX of approximately 58 million air passengers a year; Ontario, 4.5 million air passengers a year; and John Wayne Airport, 9.8 million air passengers a year.

Of course, 2030 is 20 years away and much can happen between now and then. Therefore, the real eye opener is the comparatively low projected growth of Ontario. Despite the fact that Ontario has new terminals, runways thousands of feet longer than those at John Wayne Airport, and convenient freeway access to all of the Inland Empire as well as northeast Orange County, FAA does not expect it to grow more than 33%, compared to John Wayne Airport’s 38% and LAX’s whopping approximately 60%.

FAA may have pulled the trigger too quickly, however. On May 10, 2010, the Los Angeles City Council approved a motion to study the transfer of Ontario International Airport to the control of the City of Ontario (control that shifted to Los Angeles in 1967). As the City of Ontario has a strong interest in growth of Ontario International Airport as an economic engine for the currently economically moribund Inland Empire, the jury is still out as to whether Ontario will steal those passengers FAA now projects for LAX and John Wayne Airport. Stay tuned.