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Paul Benoit - Annual Public Meeting - May 1st, 2002

An allocution by:
Paul Benoit, President and CEO

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J'ai le plaisir de présenter à la communauté le cinquième rapport sur nos activités de l'année 2001. Comme l'a indiqué le Président de notre Conseil d'administration, nous avons bénéficier d'une croissance économique locale exceptionnelle durant quatre an et demi. Année après année, un nombre sans cesse croissant de voyageurs ont taxé nos installations à leur limite. Par contre, l'année 2001 a été une année d'extrêmes.

Last year, we faced extreme growth for the first eight months, followed by extreme challenges. In both cases, the Authority's response was equal to the task.

During the first eight months, we accommodated extreme passenger volume growth in excess of 10 percent. Such growth was unheard of in the history of Ottawa Airport.

For the last four months, extreme circumstances came into play. We faced them head on.

Despite the consequences of September 11th, despite the economic slowdown, despite the subsequent capacity reduction of Air Canada and the bankruptcy of Canada 3000, Ottawa Airport remains on solid ground.

Thanks to the outstanding performance of our employees, the Airport Authority maintained its solid operational and financial position.

Nos employés ont limité les dépenses et trouvé des économies. Les employés de l'Administration aéroportuaire se sont surpassés en 2001. Je les remercie car c'est grâce à eux si l'Aéroport a fini l'année sur une note positive, tant financièrement que du côté des opérations.

Je tiens également à remercier tous les membres du Conseil d'administration pour leur leadership et leur gouvernance en 2001. Je souligne particulièrement l'appui inébranlable du Conseil qui s'est rapidement joint à l'équipe et nous a appuyés dans nos décisions au plus fort de la crise de septembre.

Il est vrai que la force de toute organisation repose sur ses gens. Je suis fier d'être membre d'une équipe qui démontre autant de dévouement, tant au niveau du Conseil que parmi nos employés. Ce dévouement a été essentiel afin de rencontrer nos objectifs corporatifs en 2001.

Partout au pays, pour tous les transporteurs aériens, 2001 a été une année de changement. Pour certains, le changement a représenté une amélioration de service, pour d'autres, le changement s'est traduit en réduction de fréquence, en mise-à-pied, et même en faillite.

Évidemment, ces changements chez les transporteurs ont imposé une grande pression sur l'Administration.
L'exercice de consolidation de Air Canada et Canadien International, complété en début d'année, a causé de nombreux changements aux horaires et aux besoins d'installations du transporteur fusionné.

Suite au ralentissement du secteur de la haute technologie, les liaisons directes vers San Jose et Raleigh-Durham ont disparu. Par contre, presque au même moment, WestJet augmente sa présence à Ottawa et ajoute de nouvelles liaisons.

L'arrivée du vol direct de ASA Delta Airlines sur Atlanta a doté notre région d'un portail sur le sud-est des États-Unis. D'ailleurs, puisque l'Aéroport d'Atlanta est le plus important au monde, ce nouveau service qui continue d'augmenter en popularité offre à notre communauté une multitude de connections faciles et pratiques.

Tout cela alors que notre économie nationale ralentissait, alors que des avertissements de récession se faisaient entendre. Pourtant, à l'Aéroport d'Ottawa, les indices économiques demeuraient forts.

As stated, passenger traffic was exceeding 10% growth during the first eight months.
Despite the rumours of a slowing economy, particularly in high technology, we were set to break the records set in 2000. More and more passengers were using the airport and our revenues were tracking better than budget.

Much of that growth came from the entry of low cost carriers into the market - Royal and CanJet began regular, scheduled service to Canadian destinations. The market reacted positively. People liked the low fares and were flying more than ever in the history of Ottawa Airport. Under those conditions, the Airport Authority was set to weather the economic downturn and produce yet another banner year.

Canada 3000 then acquired Royal and CanJet, requiring yet more changes to their set-up and installations. I am proud that despite the constant change-orders, Ottawa Airport met every reasonable demand from the carriers.

In doing so, the Authority helped foster competition among airlines serving our region. We ensure all airlines had access to the infrastructure they required. We provided our services to the carriers at the lowest cost possible so that they, in turn, had the opportunity to keep their ticket price low and further stimulate the market.

And then September 11th, the greatest challenge faced by our industry. This tragedy and human loss will not be forgotten. The reaction to September 11th was a joint effort requiring unprecedented cooperation between the Federal Government, the airlines, NavCanada, the City of Ottawa and the Ottawa Airport Authority.

I wish to thank and emphasize the leadership of both the Minister of Transport, David Collonette, for his Department's decisive actions, and Mayor Bob Chiarelli, for his critical assistance with increased police and emergency resources at a time when these resources where taxed to the limit. I also wish to thank the local population for the hundreds of calls offering help and shelter to stranded travellers.
The Airport Authority implemented all new security requirements promptly and efficiently. Again, our staff deserves our congratulations. They put aside job descriptions and regular hours to look after the good of our customers and of the general public.

Working together toward one common objective, Ottawa met the challenge.

Notre performance durant les quatre derniers mois de l'année démontre que notre corporation peut lire et réagir aux conditions du marché. Malgré la faillite de Canada 3000, malgré la baisse du trafic passager, l'Administration aéroportuaire a pris les démarches nécessaires afin d'assurer son avenir. Conséquemment, nous demeurons prêts à répondre aux besoins présents et futurs de notre communauté.

Nous continuerons de travailler avec nos partenaires et avec les entreprises locales afin d'améliorer les services aériens. Pour la première fois dans l'histoire de l'Aéroport d'Ottawa, les voyageurs ont pu choisir entre 28 destinations en 2001.

Nous désirons tous des liens directs avec des nouvelles villes. Chaque nouvelle liaison représente une nouvelle opportunité d'affaires, un nouveau choix pour les voyageurs. Après quatre années de croissance inégalée, les connections aériennes se sont ajustées aux circonstances extrêmes du dernier trimestre de 2001.

Il est vrai que nombre de vols directs a diminué, tant vers les États-Unis qu'ici au pays. Cependant, les transporteurs ont démontré leur confiance dans le marché d'Ottawa-Gatineau au cours des cinq dernières années et ils vont bientôt renouveler cette confiance en ajoutant des vols.

I invite travellers to support local air carriers who offer direct service. When booking your flight, insist on using routes that do not make your community airport the spoke. You may be surprised at how much more convenient the alternatives can be. Let's not go back to the days of acting as a feeder for the two eastern Canadian hubs.

I wish to share with you the good news of 2001 -- our expansion project. This project evolved from three basic principles: flexibility, affordability and efficiency.

The challenges of 2001 have not impacted our project. We will deliver Phase 1 by Spring 2004, with the timing for Phases 2 and 3 to be determined by future passenger demand. Our project can adapt to the realities of the future - whatever these are.

We anticipate that long-term financing will be completed shortly. Our bankers tell us our ability to raise the required funds remains strong simply because this is a project we can afford.

Our architects and engineers have designed an elegant, efficient design that represents a Canadian first: a three level passenger processor that will offer our customers a higher level of convenience than within current facilities.

We anticipate that more than one thousand workers will be on site this summer. Our target for inauguration remains Spring 2004. We will continue to keep our community fully informed about our expansion progress. Should we become in a position to confidently guarantee an earlier inauguration, we will share the good news accordingly.

Looking forward, the Ottawa Airport Authority remains well positioned to benefit from the economic recovery. With the summer travel season coming, we see signs of that economic recovery, with airlines adding flights and capacity. Within the next month or so, many airlines will add capacity and frequency to their schedule.

•American Eagle, who left Canada altogether after September 11th, will commence twice daily flights to Chicago.

•Tango has announced daily service in the Windsor - Ottawa - Halifax corridor and a direct daily flight to Winnipeg.

•Air Tours will introduce a weekly international flight direct to Gatwick.

•Northwest Orient will launch its jet service to its new hub in Detroit.

•As well, Air Canada will increase its schedule by approximately 15 flights daily. These 15 flights represent a significant increase in supply, which is great news for travellers and for Ottawa-Gatineau.
We also anticipate that low-cost CanJet will return this summer, and further stimulate the market -- as it did last summer.

The one obstacle faced by the Canadian Aviation Industry is the Federal Government Air Security Tax introduced on April 1st.

This is a tax grab, pure and simple. Our entire industry agrees: This tax is wrong. No one should profit from the tragedy of September 11th, least of all the Federal Government Treasury.

For the first quarter of 2002, the Ottawa Airport Authority is tracking better than budget and our passenger volumes are higher than anticipated. Compared to the last quarter of 2001, the trend clearly shows that people are returning to the air.

And as stated, airlines are adding flights and increasing capacity which can only help boost demand by travellers. All are signs that the economy is recovering, particularly in Canada. At the same time, we are keeping a firm lid on our expenses.

As we move into the busy summer season, the Ottawa Airport Authority is pleased to report that things are looking up. We will now take questions from the audience.