Subtle changes to passenger flow at the Ottawa International Airport are staving off the need for further expansions even as the facility set yet another annual record for passengers in 2011.
© File photo
Michael Crockatt, vice-president of business development and marketing, Ottawa International Airport Authority.
The airport recorded 4.62 million trips, a 3.4-per-cent increase from last year, on the back of increased domestic and U.S. flight traffic.
Although this is nearly 600,000 more passenger trips than five years ago, Michael Crockatt, the airport's vice-president of business development and marketing, says the facility is accommodating the extra passengers by introducing structural efficiencies, such as expanding security checkpoints and adding lanes to the customs lines.
There's more room to grow in off-peak times, too. Traffic tends to choke up in morning and late afternoon on weekdays, while other times are quieter, says Mr. Crockatt.
"If airlines chose to or are able to schedule (flight) times in shoulder or off-peak times, we have capacity for quite a bit more activity."
The steady growth in passenger trips, which was lower than 2010's 5.7-per-cent growth, comes amid several major route changes at the airport in recent months:
• WestJet, jostling for space in the crowded Ottawa-Toronto flight route with Air Canada and Porter Airlines, announced in February 2011 it would increase its daily flights to nine from seven;
• Air Canada eliminated its Ottawa route to major hub Washington Dulles in March 2011, as well as flights to Thunder Bay, on a reduced capacity forecast for that year.
• In December 2011, Delta announced more daily flights to LaGuardia Airport in New York City.
• Starting in March, US Airways will offer six daily flights between the Ottawa airport and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, a move expected to make up for the loss of Air Canada's flight to Dulles.
"There's been a bit of recovery in the economy on both sides of the border, and the news about the extra flights coming from US Airways and Delta is a positive sign that demand is going up," Mr. Crockatt says.
The airport is also keeping an eye on U.S. airports close to the border, where many Canadian travellers are going to skirt federal fees for flying in this country, but there is no immediate action planned regarding this issue, he says.
He adds the Ottawa airport is continuing to talk to carriers about introducing a direct flight to Paris, as well as connecting with more U.S. hubs. However, these negotiations are typically kept private until airlines make an official announcement.
OTTAWA Passenger numbers