From the moment you enter a Canadian airport, to the moment you board your plane, you’re entering a complex current, which airports strive to make seamless for travellers like you. Canadian airports across the country work hard to make sure this current is harmony in motion with those who fly with us. That means passenger flow is a top priority – getting travellers onto their planes as quickly as possible. So how do we do it? Well, it’s taken years of work and millions of dollars of investment to make passenger flow smooth. Here are four ways we make it happen:
1. Getting to the airport
Step one is getting from your home to the airport as quickly and smoothly as possible.
“Getting to and from the airport is something Canada’s airports have spent a lot of time on over the last 20 years,” says Daniel-Robert Gooch, president of the Canadian Airports Council.
It’s an issue that has required close coordination with local, provincial and federal governments. Road access is one part of the story, but in the last decade, the importance of transit access has exploded. Transit has become a top priority for airports… sometimes with spectacular results.
“The Canada Line was put in place in time for the Vancouver Olympics in 2010,” says Gooch, “with investments by the airport authority and three levels of government.”
“As part of our commitment to sustainable transportation, we invested $300 million in the Sea Island portion of the Canada Line, which opened in 2009,” says Craig Richmond, president and chief executive officer of the Vancouver International Airport. “The Canada Line has been a big success, greatly helping YVR achieve its environmental targets with some of the highest transit ridership in North America.”
2. Checking in
Once you walk into the airport terminal, step two is checking in. Check-in technology today is light years ahead of what it was even a decade ago.
“Airports have invested millions of dollars into self-service check-in kiosks, which are ‘common use,’ so that they can be used by travellers regardless of the airline they are flying,” Gooch points out, “not to mention self-serve baggage drops. Technologies like these help travellers get through the check-in process more efficiently.”
3. Getting through security and across borders
Your bags are checked in and you have your boarding pass. Step three is security screening, which is operated and run by the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA), a federal crown corporation. CATSA is funded by travellers through their Air Travellers Security Charge, but not all of this money has always made its way to support the service. Fixing this disconnect in resources has been a priority for Canada’s airports.
“There’s a growing concern as the pace of government funding hasn’t kept pace with the growth in travellers,” Gooch says. “Travellers need to get through screening in a reasonable amount of time, and a predictable amount of time, so they can better gauge how early they need to get to the airport.”
“Having served 44.3 million passengers in 2016 and growing well above worldwide industry trends, Toronto Pearson is a significant facilitator of economic activity for Southern Ontario, the province and the country at large,” says Howard Eng, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA). “This pace of growth is forecast to continue and even accelerate in the years to come.
“The GTAA is committed to making the ongoing investments needed to maintain its status as a world-class hub, but we also need to ensure that government funding to improve security wait times increases in step with the growth we’re experiencing,” Mr. Eng continues. “Security wait times are a key element of the passenger journey and our performance in this regard needs to be among the best in the world if Toronto Pearson is to remain a strong driver of economic activity in Canada.”
Setting aside domestic travel, international travel adds its own set of challenges to passenger flow. Just like with the check-in experience, technology is playing a big role in smoothing the ride. That includes big investments in automated border clearance kiosks and specific kiosks for entry into the United States.
Working with Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), a federal agency that is responsible for customs services, many of these projects were supported by millions of dollars in investments by airports on behalf of their travellers.
“Over the years, we have invested a great deal in technological solutions that are key to improve passenger experience and passenger flow, including wayfinding, self-check-in, baggage self-drop, security at the border,” says Philippe Rainville, chief executive officer of Aéroports de Montréal. “Automated border clearance kiosks in Canada and Automated Passport Control for U.S. Preclearance have been well received by our passengers and have significantly improved passenger flow at our airport, especially at peak times. “
4. Picking up baggage
You’ve gotten through security and you’ve boarded your plane. Once you arrive safe and sound at your destination, the baggage system plays a big role in how quickly and efficiently you can move to your next stop. While invisible to travellers, the investments made in this area in recent years have been enormous – as Gooch puts it, to the tune of “hundreds of millions of dollars.”
“It’s all about speeding up baggage transfer between aircraft,” he adds, “so travellers can make connections in less time and wait less for their bags at the end of their journey.”
“YYC Calgary International Airport has installed a state-of-the-art tote-based baggage system that moves bags more quickly through the entire departure, connection or arrival process — speeding up the scanning process, moving bags more quickly than conventional conveyor systems, and providing more accurate tracking of each bag as it moves through the system – which means bags get to the aircraft or the baggage carousel more quickly and reliably,” says Bob Sartor, president and chief executive officer of the Calgary Airport Authority.
These are only a few of the ways airports are working to get you where you need to go, as quickly and as easily as possible. We are working to make your experience as smooth as it can be, literally every step of the way – from the moment you leave your home to the moment your plane lands at its destination. Our goal is simple: harmony in motion, every time you fly with Canada’s airports.
Canada’s airports – once under federal control – were transferred to local airport authorities in 1992. There were many reasons for this, but ageing infrastructure was at the top of the list. Infrastructure investments were few and far between in the years leading up to 1992 – facilities were aging and couldn’t keep up with growing demand.
After 1992, more than $22 billion in infrastructure investments were made in Canadian airports – uplifting communities from coast to coast to coast. Harmony in motion is made possible by this modern, cutting-edge infrastructure.
“Some infrastructure investments are made to support regional economic development,” says Daniel-Robert Gooch, president of the Canadian Airports Council. “For example, there’s a 17,000 square metre cargo pad in Halifax that was created for the lobster industry. Economic development is part of airport mandates under the not-for-profit model.”
Airport infrastructure is so vital, some Canadian communities wouldn’t even exist without it! Gander, Newfoundland is a great example. As Gooch describes it, “Gander was developed as an airport in the 1930s. It took on significant international aviation significance in the Second World War as a refueling stop for aircraft travelling to Europe. The town grew up around the base, and today it remains a major air traffic control centre and refueling stop.”
To find other communities that depend on airports, look north. A recent report to the federal government from former cabinet minister David Emerson highlighted the vital role airports play in supplying remote communities, where “aviation is heavily relied upon to move people and goods, as well as to address medical needs.” As the report puts it, “both the northern part of the Northwest Territories and all of Nunavut rely primarily on marine transport and aviation.”
”The North, and the people living in the region are critical to our country’s future. Aviation forms the foundation of northern economic infrastructure and in understanding that, Winnipeg Airports Authority is focused on meeting their needs to enhance the region’s potential,” says Barry Rempel, president and chief executive officer of the Winnipeg Airports Authority. “Whether assisting passengers, providing cargo support or accommodating medical flights, we are committed to connecting the North with the rest of Canada and the world”.
It’s not just small communities that rely on airport infrastructure either. International airports in Canada’s seven largest metros are often the second largest employment district in their region, notes the Canadian Global Cities Council. Infrastructure is the foundation of that economic engine, and because of it, a 2013 study found that the air transportation industry (of which airports are a big part) directly employed more than 141,000 people.
“The Vancouver International Airport is committed to operating a world class sustainable airport and we have continued to invest back in our infrastructure in order to create more travel and economic opportunities for our community,” says Craig Richmond, president and chief executive officer of the Vancouver International Airport.
“Upwards of 23,000 people work at the airport. We’re in the midst of planning a $5.6 billion capital investment over the next 20 years that will continue to grow our position as a major economic contributor in B.C.”
This year, on Canada’s 150th birthday, we remember the role transportation infrastructure played as the tie that bound our country. In 1867 it was a railroad that extended from east to west. Today it’s dozens and dozens of airports, whose infrastructure connects us and binds us – a harmony in motion that lifts our communities and serves as our gateway to the world.
Canada’s economy is taking off with airports – and that’s not just a metaphor. When you break down all the ways Canada’s airport system lifts and empowers the Canadian economy, it’s hard to picture our prosperity without it.
Let’s start with the numbers.
“Canada’s air transport sector – of which airports are a big part – adds $35 billion to Canada’s GDP,” says Daniel-Robert Gooch, president of the Canadian Airports Council, “and we handled more than 140 million passengers in 2016, up from 133 million in 2015.”
But the economic impact of Canadian airports goes deeper than raw data. Canada is a trading nation, and enormous swaths of our economy depend on exports. Airports are the lynchpin of those economic flows. “Air cargo accounts for only 3% of the volume of goods moved in Canada,” says Gooch, “yet also accounts for a whopping 35% of the estimated value of those goods. It’s an indication of how important airports are.”
There are sectors of the Canadian economy that simply wouldn’t exist without airports. International education is one example – foreign students are big business for Canadian universities and colleges. These institutions depend on air travel not only to ferry students to and from Canada, but to send representatives abroad for marketing and recruitment.
On Canada’s east coast, the lobster industry depends on air travel – and local airports have gone out of their way to help the sector succeed.
“Halifax Stanfield has invested significantly in our cargo operation that helped the airport set yet another cargo record in 2016,” says Halifax International Airport Authority Chief Commercial Officer Bert van der Stege.
“We’ve extended our main runway and recently constructed a new cargo loading pad near our airside cargo facility that features 7,000 square feet of climate controlled space – ideal for shipping fresh lobster and other seafood.”
Of course, no industry relies more on harmonious airports than tourism, “by a long shot, the biggest industry for us,” says Gooch.
In 2016 alone there were 9.8 million tourist visits to Canada by air.
In a country as vast and as beautiful as ours, tourist dollars from abroad fill Canadian pockets – whether it’s those of local businesses, or tax revenue for our governments. None of that would be possible without airports.
“YYC Calgary International Airport is an economic gateway in more ways than one,” says Bob Sartor, president and chief executive officer of the Calgary Airport Authority. “Not only do we welcome millions of travellers and their tourism dollars, we support jobs for thousands of people at the airport, and tens of thousands of people throughout the region.”
None of these economic flows would exist without the huge infrastructure investments airports have made in their own facilities. Since 1992 – when the federal government transferred airports to local airport authorities – more than $22 billion has been invested into airport infrastructure. Today every dollar of profit made by Canadian airports is reinvested back into the airports themselves. It empowers airports to modernize and expand, better serving travellers – and creating even more opportunities to lift the Canadian economy to grander heights.