But with traffic up more than 13 per cent over the past five years, hitting 4.62 million passengers in 2011 and now expected to hit five million by 2014, the outgoing head of the Ottawa International Airport Authority says work must start on the facility's next major expansion.
"(We) have to start building now," said president and CEO Paul Benoit at the airport authority's annual general meeting, held Tuesday at the Hilton Garden Inn.
"We are at the point where we have to start looking (at expansion options)."
Already, he said, the airport's baggage delivery system, check-in counters and customs area are experiencing bottlenecks.
Mr. Benoit said the first step is figuring out exactly what is needed in the next expansion phase by re-calculating the capacity of the terminal and runways, taking into account current industry trends. For example, he asked, are more check-in counters required, or will passengers continue to shift to self-serve kiosks?
The airport's last expansion was completed in 2008 and added more than 75,000 square feet to passenger areas along with 12 new gates. The project, which also required demolishing the old terminal and constructing new tarmac aprons and taxiways, cost $95 million.
Since then, the airport has undertaken several capital projects, including expanding the parkade and rebuilding runways.
The latter project will continue this year, when the airport's east-west runway is reconstructed at an approximate cost of $12 million.
These initiatives are funded in part by an airport improvement fee levied on departing passengers that increased from $15 to $20 last year. That helped push overall revenues up 15 per cent to $103.06 million in 2011.
Expenses were up four per cent to $75.17 million, leaving the airport authority with net earnings of $27.89 million before depreciation.
Mr. Benoit said there are no immediate plans to increase the airport improvement fee, but added that the landing fees paid by airlines are expected to rise at or near the rate of inflation.
This was the final annual general meeting for Mr. Benoit, who announced his plans to retire earlier this year after 16 years at the helm.
Mr. Benoit received a standing ovation after his speech as well as tributes from several board members.
"Paul has impressed me with his passion for the airport and his dedication to ensuring its success," said Raymond Brunet, the past chairman of the board.
"The airport and the region are better for having had him at the helm ... and both will reap the benefits of his time here for many decades to come."
Mr. Benoit's contract runs until the end of February. Officials say a committee has been formed to search for his replacement and will soon engage an executive recruiter for assistance, with the goal of finding a new CEO by the fall.