RIVERSIDE (CNS) - The group that is suing Los Angeles for control of Ontario International Airport says airlines are pulling out of the Inland Empire at an alarming rate, it was reported today.

The number of seats offered from the inland air terminal will drop nearly a quarter in the next three months, the Riverside-Press-Enterprise reported.

Flights are no longer longer offered from ONT to major destinations like Atlanta or JFK in New York, and fares are becoming noncompetitive to transfer hubs like Denver, Dallas, Houston or Salt Lake City, according to a study by the Ontario International Airport Authority, as reported today in the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

The agency has been formed by Inland Empire cities to wrest control of the airport from the City of Los Angeles. Negotiations between the city's Los Angeles World Airports and the new inland agency are continuing this month over the fate of the airport.

Airlines have announced they will slash the number of available seats from Ontario by a total of about 24.5 percent over the next three months, according to a study from the Ontario International Airport Authority.

The Riverside newspaper quoted one passenger who diverted to Palm Springs for a $658 flight to Corpus Christi, Texas, rather than pay $1,548 to fly out of Ontario.

Los Angeles has owned and operated Ontario for decades, as part of a plan to divert travelers from Los Angeles international Airport. LAWA has built a new terminal at Ontario, but its marketing efforts have been faulted by inland cities desperate not to lose their air service.

Aggravating the problem has been an industry trend to concentrate service at main gateway airports instead of suburban airports, and the increased frequency of air service at the Palm Springs airport as more resort- goers and locals patronize it.

--Posted by KFI News Anchor Terry Anzur