FedEx Express, the air and international unit of FedEx Corp. (NYSE:FDX), said Thursday that it has opened a 251,000-square-foot complex at California’s Ontario International Airport, about 35 miles northeast of Los Angeles.
The complex includes a sorting facility capable of handling about 12,000 packages per hour, the FedEx unit said. It also includes nine wide-body aircraft gates, 14 feeder aircraft gates and 18 truck docks, the unit said.
The project expands FedEx Express’ 33-year presence at Ontario, which has long been a key node in the nation’s parcel-delivery network. Rival UPS Inc. (NYSE:UPS) opened its West Coast regional air hub at Ontario the year after FedEx started there.
The opening of the FedEx unit’s facility comes before what’s expected to be a record-setting holiday shipping season for FedEx, UPS and virtually every parcel delivery provider.
The 59-acre site is more than triple the size of the 18.5 acres that FedEx had occupied since 1987. It represents the airport’s most significant improvement project since the 1990s, according to airport officials. Four years ago, the airport transferred from private ownership to local control under the auspices of the Ontario International Airport Authority Commission.
Under terms of a June 2018 leasing agreement that keeps FedEx Express at Ontario for 30 years and possibly as long as 50 years, the airport authority cleared a 51.1-acre lot of structures above and below ground, performed surface grading and took responsibility for required environmental impact reports and analyses.
FedEx Express agreed to construct operational, maintenance and administrative facilities while making infrastructure improvements such as 170,000 square yards of concrete for aircraft ramp and trucking operations. Nov. 30 was the original deadline for completing the improvements.
Air cargo volume at Ontario increased 19% through the first nine months of the year, and by 20% or more in six of those months, the airport authority said. From January through September, freight volume was nearly 645,000 tons compared to 539,000 tons in the same period in 2019, according to airport data.
Cargo operations have become the center of airport services this year as the pandemic dramatically curtailed passenger travel while essential and nonessential goods still needed to get to market.