New John Wayne Airport Director Wakes Up Newport Beach

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Charlene Reynolds

John Wayne Airport is flying high with the recent addition of Charlene Reynolds as the newly appointed Airport Director.

A Phoenix native, Reynolds boasts over 20 years of experience in both the public and private sectors. She comes to Orange County after serving as the chief commercial officer of the Houston Airport System, and previously working for the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport as the Interim and Assistant Aviation Director. She also worked for the City of Phoenix for 15 years in the transportation department and the city manager’s office.

Reynolds came out of the gate strong with a presentation at the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce “Wake Up Newport” monthly meeting on Thursday, Aug. 4. She made an earnest commitment that she, as the Airport Director, “does not advocate for runway expansion; however, that is a policy decision by the Board of Supervisors,” which was met with a round of applause from those assembled.

Instead, Reynolds is focusing on specific priorities that enhance and improve the airport including community partnerships, sustainability, guest experience, financial health and employee relations.

John Wayne Airport sits on approximately 510 acres of Orange County owned land bordered by Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Santa Ana, and Irvine. The airport operates 20 loading bridge gates and two runways, one for commercial flights and the other for general aviation.

In 2021, the airport served 7.7 million passengers and transported 16 tons of air cargo.  Over 95 percent of passenger flights include both origin and destination, with passengers taking off from and returning to Orange County.

Top destinations include Phoenix, Las Vegas, Dallas, and Seattle. More than half the flights are leisure oriented, with the remaining divided between traditional business and personal matters. Especially interesting is that 20 percent of passengers use the airport four or more times over a four-year period.

All this adds up to what Reynolds calls a focus on a “guest-experience” unique to Orange County. That will include establishing a fee based “common-use” lounge, expanded food and beverage options, and increased activity-based opportunities.

On the financial side, Reynolds stated that John Wayne Airport is “self-supporting by monies earned from the airlines and the airport’s commercial enterprises, without general fund monies from the county” and is under mandate to spend all airport revenue for airport purposes.

The most recent years’ revenue totaled about $181 million with approximately $80 million from aeronautical sources, $60 million from commercial sources, $20 million from grants and $20 million from passenger fees. Expenses for the same year are about $133 million, well under the available budget.

Reynolds initiated the discussion of airport noise with a “drumroll please” quip in deference to how important the matter is to the community. She is working with the county on a soon to be launched “Fly Friendly” initiative that encourages general aviation jet operators to be good partners with the community and voluntarily work toward meaningful noise reduction. She also forges relationships with airlines to add newer aircraft with quieter and cleaner operations.

Reynolds finished her presentation with a commitment to enhancing the experience for everyone who travels through, works with, or lives around John Wayne Airport. The result, according to Reynolds, is a very lofty goal to “establish John Wayne Airport as the best medium-class hub in the nation.”

For more information on “Wake Up Newport” presentations and other Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce programs, go to

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