Airport plans to add seven new gates

Peter Kovessy
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The Ottawa International Airport Authority is preparing to add seven new gates as part of an expansion plan that could cost roughly $500 million once construction begins, according to the airport’s CEO.

Incoming Ottawa International Airport Authority president and CEO Mark Laroche.

Mark Laroche says the airport authority is in the early planning stages of the expansion and is currently looking to hire a consultant to prepare a more detailed vision and determine the final layout and budget.

The last expansion of the airport’s terminal, completed in December 2008, added 12 news gates and brought the total to 27.

If it were built today, the next expansion would cost a minimum of $350 million, Mr. Laroche said, adding that the final price tag is likely to be closer to $500 million.

While the airport knows it will need additional capacity in the coming years, Mr. Laroche said officials must be careful not to pull the trigger prematurely.

“You don’t want passengers paying for capacity that is not required,” he told OBJ in an interview ahead of the airport authority’s annual general meeting this month.

There's no firm timeline for any expansion project, which would need to be approved by the airport authority's board of directors.

The airport broke its own passenger traffic record for the eighth time in the last nine years in 2012 with 4.69 million travellers passing through its terminal, an increase of 1.33 per cent.

While 2012 got off to a strong start, passenger numbers waned as the year continued.

Mr. Laroche replaced long-time president and CEO Paul Benoit, who officially retired at the end of February after more than 16 years on the job.

Prior to taking the Ottawa’s airport’s top job, Mr. Laroche served as president and CEO of the Canada Lands Company, a federal Crown corporation that inherits surplus government properties and readies the sites for resale. It also owns and operates landmarks such as the CN Tower in Toronto.

The Ottawa International Airport Authority controls more than 700 acres of land available for development. Building on those sites and turning the airport into an even larger employment node is one part of a joint economic vision drafted by city and airport officials.

Earlier this year, the airport reached an agreement with the National Capital Region to remove the airport from the Greenbelt - facilitating future expansions and development - in exchange for protecting lands to the south and west of the airport.

“I’m very pro-development … (and) want the airport to be viewed as an economic engine,” Mr. Laroche said.

He added that the airport has formally committed to negotiating development rights with two parties who are bidding to build a casino in Ottawa if they are selected as the preferred proponent by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.

Any revenue generated through long-term land leases - such as the agreement that enabled construction of the CE Centre, since renamed the Ernst & Young Centre - reduces the revenue requirements of the aeronautical side of the airport’s business. In other words, land development can help make Ottawa a cheaper and more attractive destination for airlines to service.

While airport officials are constantly lobbying airlines to add new destinations, Mr. Laroche said new direct flights to Paris and Miami currently top his wish list.

The French capital would connect Ottawa with another European hub and complement Air Canada’s current service to Frankfurt and London, U.K. Miami, meanwhile, would provide greater access to major South American markets and business destinations in the Caribbean.

Organizations: Canada Lands Company, CN Tower, Ottawa International Airport Authority Ontario Lottery and Gaming CE Centre Ernst Young Centre Air Canada

Geographic location: Ottawa, Toronto, National Capital Region Greenbelt Paris Miami Frankfurt London Caribbean

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