Ottawa International Airport's First Year
Paul Benoit at the Airport Authority Annual Public Meeting
1997 marked the first year Ottawa International Airport was managed and operated by a local airport authority. Today, Ottawa International is a community-based, not-for profit (and, I hasten to add, not-for-loss) facility, with surplus dollars reinvested in the facility. We are a business.
In fact, the airport is a significant economic factor within the region. It is a net generator of wealth.
In 1997, there were 161,000 aircraft movements through the airport and over three million passengers served. The airport employs 4,600 people directly and indirectly. It has a wage bill of $85 million and an indirect wage bill of $56 million. Within the region, the airport generates $240 million of economic activity.
Although those numbers are impressive, the most significant economic factor I can relate to you is the fact that the airport is a taxpayer. Up to 1997, the airport was a drain on the taxpayers of Canada, losing several millions of dollars a year. Now that it's operations are managed by the Airport Authority, the airport does not take a dime from the taxpayers -- on the contrary, it contributes more than $7 million of taxes to various levels of government.
Our first objective: preclearance
Today, the region's travelling public and businesses can expect a more convenient, customer-oriented approach to services at Ottawa International.
The Airport Authority's first goal, as operators of the airport, was reached within four months of being handed the keys -- and, of course, I am speaking of the delivery of the US Customs and Immigration Preclearance facility.
On February 4, when we were handed the keys by the Federal Government, the Airport Authority -- that day -- made the commitment to deliver US preclearance in July. And, we did exactly that -- on time and on budget.
On July 7, the preclearance facility opened and changed, for the better, the nature of travel to the United States for our local pleasure and business travellers. We can now travel anywhere south of the border, quicker and more conveniently after being pre-cleared through US Customs here at Ottawa International.
Connection times at stop-over airports have been reduced from one-and-a-half hours to 25 minutes. The traveller has more final destination alternatives and greater flexibility in planning trips. For the region's businesses, it enables them to better connect with customers, markets, and suppliers.
As a result of preclearance there has been a 50% increase in transborder flights.
The preclearance facility is but one of the initiatives that was undertaken in 1997 to make the airport more convenient and customer-friendly. There were 25 major projects in total, and $7 million spent on improvements at Ottawa International in the first year.
The Airport Authority immediately set out to make needed improvements to the airport infrastructure and terminal building -- three million was spent on the US Preclearance Facility; two million went towards building improvements; $1.2 million went into airside paving and restoration.
As part of the two million in building improvements, the terminal building now has new handicap accessible ramps, new washrooms, new duty-free shops, and new boardroom and lounge facilities.
We revamped all the public services and refurbished the retail area. Our terminal building now boasts new businesses like Gatineau Brew Works, Battery Plus, Yogen Fruz, and Toast! Cafe and Grill.
In 1997, the Airport Authority began a five million airside improvement program. The first phase is complete with a $1.2 million restoration of the primary taxiway.
$500,000 was also spent on the resurfacing of roadways into the airport's centre core and added reserved parking spaces for seniors, disabled persons and expectant mothers.
There have been a lot of improvements made over 1997. I would like to point out that all of these expenditures were planned with the airport's operating budget. No taxpayers' dollars went towards these initiatives. A total of $23.9 million was spent, with gross capital expenses of $11.3 million, in Ottawa International Airport's first year of operations -- a year in which we, as an airport and a community, we can be justifiably proud.
The Master Plan
Another very important initiative began by the Airport Authority in this past year was the start of the master plan process -- a process that will provide the blueprint for the development of the airport's facilities and services through to the year 2020.
Through fall 1997 and into 1998, we have consulted with the local business organizations, with community groups and with the public to determine our options for growth and develop a plan that will meet the needs of the region into the next century.
It is a reality that Ottawa International needs to develop its current facility and address the inadequacies of our aging air terminal building. The airport facilities are bursting at the seams. We serve approximately three million travellers per year. In 2020, the conservative projections for Ottawa International's passenger volumes are that they will double, to close to 5.8 million travellers through our airport facilities. This growth demands that we do some planning today.
We need to make decisions about a terminal building that is barely meeting the needs of our customers during peak traffic periods. Through the Master Plan process, at the end of the day, the Airport Authority's objective is to be responsive to the community's need.
Our competitive position
We believe Ottawa International Airport has come of age as a business-focused, community-based airport. Ottawa International is an important asset of the National Capital Region. The airport is a partner in promoting the area as a superior place to visit and do business. It is a lever to create opportunities for business, tourism, investment and national government interests in Ottawa-Carleton and Outaouais.
Today, Ottawa International offers 82 daily non-stop flights to major Canadian cities. It offers 41 daily non-stop flights to major US cities. Continental Airlines is the latest in providing our region with new service south of the border. The airport also offers, as of June 1, 10 flights per week to Europe. With the increased destinations and the frequency of flights over this last year, Ottawa International has truly become the region's link to the world's markets.
The Airport Authority's objective is to deliver a service that is safe, comfortable, and convenient.
At Ottawa International, we are committed to a higher level of customer satisfaction and to making the airport more efficient. We also want an airport that truly reflects the character of the region -- one that the community can be proud of.
Through all the changes, I would like to commend the employees of Ottawa International Airport -- for without them, none of our success this first year would be possible. Our employees should be extremely proud of the job they are doing. The airport's many improvements are a direct result of our employees' commitment to the airport and the public who travel through it.
If you have not been to the airport recently, I welcome you to view for yourself the many changes which have made Ottawa International more convenient, comfortable and customer-friendly. The Board of Directors and the Airport Authority staff are working to meet the needs of our community. With the changes and the plans for future changes, the airport is, more and more, your capital connection to the world.