Foreign travelers to Ontario International Airport disembark much like local travelers did before the modern terminals were opened two decades ago.
International passengers must exit the plane down a staircase, carry-on suitcase in tow. They make their way off the tarmac to a modular building.
This was considered behind-the-times for domestic passengers, which is why new terminals were opened in 1998. In 2018, the experience is so outdated it simply doesn’t meet requirements of modern-day passengers, said Ontario International Airport Authority CEO Mark Thorpe.
“Customers today expect jet bridges. It’s an inferior service to go down to the FIS facility,” said Thorpe, referring to the federal inspection services facility.
In January, the authority’s commissioners agreed to solicit design and construction proposals that will ultimately replace the 44,000-square-foot federal inspection facility and international terminal. The effort is part of the authority’s overall goal, since regaining local control November 2016, to improve the customer experience at Ontario Airport.
Construction is anticipated to begin this year and wrap up in the first quarter of 2020, according to a report to commissioners. Based on preliminary costs, the replacement project could cost between $70 million to $80 million.
“We won’t know until the design bids come in,” he said.
The authority is still exploring a range of funding options for the project, “and our goal is to find revenue streams that are the least amount of burden on the airlines,” said Atif Elkadi, senior director of marketing, communications and external affairs for Ontario airport.