Orange County could benefit from expanding John Wayne airport

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Orange County could benefit from reducing restrictions on operations at John Wayne Orange County airport, finds a recent Grand Jury analysis.

“Long term plans need to accommodate more commercial departures to accommodate a significant increase in passenger demand and improve ground and airspace safety,” the report says.

Demand at John Wayne will exceed capacity in seven years – by 2021 – if the current proposal to cap passenger numbers at 11.8 million annually after 2020 is not revised or removed, the Grad Jury finds.

This will lead to higher airfares and the loss of increasing numbers of passengers to other airports in the region, including Long Beach, Los Angeles International and Ontario International, it adds.

The John Wayne is limited by both the 1985 settlement agreement between the county, city of Newport Beach, Airport Working Group and the Stop Polluting Our Newport group, noise limits and a curfew on flight movements.

Passenger capacity is limited to 10.8 million through the end of 2015, and flights can only arrive and depart between 07:00 and 23:00 on weekdays with restricted hours on Sundays.

The proposal currently being considered by the parties includes extending the 10.8 million passenger capacity cap through 2020, increasing it to 11.8 million from 2021 to 2025 and then they have four options that range from keeping the 11.8 million cap or increasing it to as much as 16.9 million passengers by 2030. The curfew would remain unchanged.

John Wayne handled 9.23 million passengers in 2013, airport data shows.

Residents of Newport Beach, an upscale suburb in the flight path of aircraft departing John Wayne, are opposed to any further increases to the settlement agreement, local media reports.

The county board of supervisors is expected to review the proposals and a draft environmental impact report in the third quarter.

Alaska Airlines, American Airlines and its US Airways subsidiary, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, Interjet (ends 20 July), Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and WestJet serve John Wayne.

John Wayne is the second busiest airport in the Los Angeles region behind Los Angeles International, which handled 66.7 million passengers in 2013.