Monday, June 26, 2017

Why first commercial flights out of San Bernardino International Airport (KSBD) will be delayed by months

SAN BERNARDINO >> Prospective passengers on the first commercial flights out of San Bernardino International Airport, scheduled for this week, will have to wait out some major flight delays — months of delays.

Ultra-low-cost Mexican airline Volaris announced in April that flights between San Bernardino and Guadalajara, Mexico, would leave every Monday and Thursday starting June 29.

It was a major milestone for the airport, more than 20 years after Norton Air Force Base was shuttered and three years after the $20.5 million international arrivals terminal was completed.

But not quite everything was in place.

The airport is still looking for the required Customs and Border Patrol officers, said Mark Gibbs, director of aviation for SBIA.

It’s not clear when that hurdle will be cleared, but airport and Volaris officials still plan to begin the flights as early as possible, Gibbs said.

“Volaris remains committed to the market, which is fantastic,” he said. “It’s good for the community, first and foremost. It’s a matter of working with those guys to get the officers. We’re excited to continue working with Volaris.”

A Volaris spokesman confirmed the reason for the delay and the company’s continued commitment, although he put the responsibility for finding customs agents on the airport.

The other new flight that Volaris announced the same day as San Bernardino’s — between Oaxaca, Mexico, and Los Angeles International Airport — is still scheduled to begin this week, according to the spokesman.

November is the tentative date for service to begin in San Bernardino, according to Volaris, but Gibbs didn’t commit to a particular time.

Finding customs agents is an involved process, but Gibbs said he was optimistic.

“We’re not the only airport that customs is an issue for,” he said. “Industrywide, there’s a scarcity of resources for that.”

The Washington Post reported in 2016 that there would be “no quick fix” for a staffing shortage that led to complaints of long lines and 16-hour shifts.

Gibbs said he learned about six weeks ago that the flights would not begin on the announced date.

In 2014, Volaris began flying between Ontario International Airport and Guadalajara, putting it in competition with AeroMexico’s flights to the same destination. A second set of Volaris flights from Ontario to León, Guanajuato, started in May.

While commercial flights have been an elusive goal, San Bernardino has seen substantial increases in other areas in recent years.

Airport officials say the number of aircraft operating daily doubled from 2013 to 2016 — to 48,000 — and so far this year is 20 percent above that.

http://www.sbsun.com

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