Message from the President and Chief Executive Officer
Ottawa was the place to be in 2017. Thanks in part to the incredible events that were held across the Region, our passenger count exceeded 4.8 million for the year. Congratulations to every individual and organization that played a part in the historic sesquicentennial celebrations.
As a partner of Celebrations Ottawa, we were fortunate to partake in some of the excitement, but it wasn’t all fun and games. We worked hard to grow revenues from all sources with particular focus on non-aeronautical revenues – total revenues of $128.3 million increased 5.2% over 2016 and finished the year with net earnings after depreciation of $3.8 million. As always, we will reinvest these earnings in airport operations and maintenance.
We also advanced many infrastructure projects and other strategic initiatives that you will read about in this report. I would like to touch on a few of the highlights here.
On the infrastructure side, we completed a complex taxiway reconstruction project, and further advanced airside safety with the installation of a Simplified Short Approach Lighting System (SSALR) on Runway 25, which provides a high intensity visual lighting path for landing aircraft.
Departing passengers have no doubt noticed significant changes on Level 3 where we transformed the Domestic/International check-in area and deployed new systems, software, kiosks and electronic signage for more efficient customer service.
We went into the year with a fair amount of concern about the future of the current airport model in Canada due to the federal government’s discussions about moving the Canadian airport governance model from private, not-for-profit to private, for-profit. We led a coalition with the Calgary and Vancouver airport authorities to advocate for improving the current good governance model that has served communities in Canada very well for more than 20 years, instead of moving to a for-profit model that would have increased airline fees. The Minister of Transport confirmed in early 2018 that the move to a private, for-profit model was no longer under active consideration. We appreciate the clarity the Minister’s remarks have provided and will continue to work on continuously improving the current private, not-for-profit model for the benefit of our passengers.
As we contemplated the changes that will be required to accommodate “CATSA Plus”, a more efficient way of screening passengers developed by the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, we identified a solution that will not only impact the pre-board screening area, but also much of our current concession space. We believe the changes will ultimately be positive for our concessionaires and passengers, and since the Authority is currently revamping its entire concessions program, the timing is right.
We are also working on a project to build a new hotel adjacent to the Parkade and connected to the terminal. We selected a potential hotel partner through a competitive tender process and are hopeful that we will come to an agreement in the near future.
Finally, we continue to work closely with the City of Ottawa towards the airport link as part of Stage 2 of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) project. When the final piece of the funding puzzle was committed by the federal government in June, we were able to move forward to reach an agreement in principle with the City for the delineation of work at the Airport station. We will focus on formalizing the agreement in 2018 as we deal with infrastructure issues associated with construction of the line.
More information on all three projects will be available later in 2018 but suffice it to say that the changes will be considerable, and we are excited to settle on the plans that will best serve our Airport’s needs well into the future.
Irregular Operations, or IROPS as we refer to them, generated a lot of interest, discussion, and action throughout the latter half of 2017. Severe storms in Toronto and Montreal resulted in 20 aircraft diversions to Ottawa on July 31st with extended waits for a few flights. The resulting customer reaction prompted the Canadian Transportation Agency to open an inquiry into two specific flights, in which the Authority participated. The final report, which was released in early December, directed no blame at the Authority. However, we have used the event as an opportunity to work with our airport partners to ensure that comprehensive contingency plans are in place for the benefit of all passengers in the future.
The Authority relies on the travelling public, local business, government and the tourism industry to support the Airport’s Vision and Mission by flying Ottawa first, by advocating for us in policy discussions and by providing input to processes like the Airport Master Plan. As such, it is incumbent upon the Authority to be equally engaged in contributing to the well-being of its community and stakeholders.
In the 20 years since the Authority was formed, we have tried to do just that by engaging with the community, beyond simply providing a point of departure or arrival for our passengers.
Fulfilling our Vision and Mission means investing in the Airport in order to maintain a world-class facility that is always focused on safety and security and contributes to the economic well-being of the Region. It means helping many lesser-known charitable organizations make a difference for their clients through Project Clear Skies. It means minimizing the environmental impact our Airport has on the earth, and so much more. While we plan to narrow the focus in 2018 and beyond, many of our activities in 2017 made a difference, including the examples that follow.
Our Region is well known for iconic attractions such as the Rideau Canal and Parliament Hill, but we know it has so much more to offer. From significant cultural venues and world-class universities, hospitals, and centres of excellence in technology and innovation, to a burgeoning craft brewery industry, there are many reasons to not only visit but to live, work and play in Ottawa-Gatineau. With nearly 5 million passengers travelling through the Airport each year, we are uniquely positioned to offer visibility to these community partners. To this end, the Authority established the YOW Showcase in the arrivals area where local stars can share their stories with our visitors. We launched the program with Celebrations Ottawa’s interactive 150th event kiosk, and Ross Video finished the year with an impressive display that featured the Technical Emmy Award presented to the company in 2016. We look forward to working with local enterprises in the coming years to showcase their talents to the world.
As a jump off point to the Arctic for both passengers and cargo, YOW is a critical link in the supply chain to the North. The Authority has partnered with First Air and Aeroterm to apply for infrastructure funding through the federal government’s National Trade Corridors Fund. The First Air-led application, which requests half of the $17.5 million project cost, would significantly expand the airline’s current cargo facilities at the Ottawa International Airport and ensure that First Air can continue to meet the growing needs of the communities and individuals that rely on it for the delivery of essential goods.
On the heels of achieving Level 1 of Airports Council International-North America’s (ACI-NA) four-level Airport Carbon Accreditation Program in late 2016, we focused our efforts on achieving Level 2 Accreditation for greenhouse gas emission reduction in 2017. We received formal accreditation on January 9th, 2018, in keeping with our goal to reduce the footprint left by airport operations.
The successes I’ve mentioned are only possible with responsible stewardship and a lot of teamwork. I would like to thank Chair Chris Carruthers and the entire Board of Directors for their time, their engagement and their commitment to the Airport’s excellence.
With the Board’s input and collaboration, the Authority developed a comprehensive Strategic Plan and companion Action Plan that determine our priorities each year. Fulfilling on the long list of tasks takes an amazing team that keeps a close eye on budget, timing and results. YOW’s team is all that and more, and I would like to thank them for ensuring that we have quality, safe and secure airport facilities that offer our passengers an award-winning, superior customer experience each and every time they travel.
In summary, while 2017 was a great year, I am looking to the future and to what the next two to five years will mean for the Airport; I see significant but positive changes that will make our Airport an even better and more efficient asset for our community.
President and CEO