Canadian Airport Review

Trudeau airport is considering deploying wireless CUSS kiosks. (AdM)

Carroll McCormick reports on how traffic is down; regulations are looking up, while communications and infrastructure are advancing.


Trudeau airport is considering deploying wireless CUSS kiosks. (AdM)


As reported in the preceding US airports review, North American passenger traffic in 2008 was well down from 2007.  Indeed, the top 150 airports processed 10,440,909 fewer passengers.  However, in Canada the pattern of the passenger traffic slump was quite different to that experienced in the US – where 23 US airports suffered a 10-20% passenger drop, the only Canadian airport to lose on that scale was Hamilton, which recorded a 17.7% reduction.  In addition, three US airports lost over 20% of their passengers.
The biggest winners were Kitchener, up 34.9% and Gander, up 32.5%.  Four Canadian airports saw gains from 10%-20%: Quebec (16.6%), Moncton (10.6%) and Nanaimo (10.7%).  Charlottetown attributes much of its 11.5% gain to increased immigration associated with the provincial nominee programme, and new flights to Ottawa.
On the cargo side, Cranbrook posted a 35.3% gain and Victoria a 26.1% loss.  The fastest way to summarise the rest of the cargo action is to note that the only other airports featured in the ACI-NA cargo report to post gains, besides Cranbrook, were Calgary (12.3%) and Edmonton (1.6%).  Mighty Pearson lost 3.7% and Vancouver dropped by 7.6%.  ACI-NA did not post the cargo results for Trudeau.
Abbotsford now receives eight hours of daily border clearance services on a seasonal basis. (Abbotsford)

The loss of passenger traffic has continued into this year.  Statistics Canada reported that movements were down 6.2% to 520,716 in April 2009 at 93 airports with control towers and flight service stations.  This compares to 554,885 for April 2008.  Itinerant movements (flights from one airport to another) fell 5.3% this April, compared to the same month in 2008; and local movements (those flights that remain in the vicinity of the airport) dropped by 7.9% in April, compared to the same month in 2008.
 
Regulations
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), which provides border services, issued its Core Services Review: Air Mode Report, this January.  In it, CBSA describes the inequities between airports in the core services it provides; eg, some airports were getting 24/7 Customs support and others only eight hours per day; and services CBSA provided free to some airports were supplied on a cost-recovery basis to some others.
The review was in response to stakeholder criticisms and the result is the CBSA Air Services Policy Framework.  It came into effect on April 1, 2009, and sets out to provide a service delivery approach that is fair, transparent and flexible.  “The framework aims to establish a consistent, open and equitable service delivery approach for determining where and how best to allocate the CBSA’s resources for future service requests.  The CBSA has … expanded international passenger clearance services at eligible sites,” according to CBSA.
“We at the Canadian Airports Council [CAC] have been working some time now to have CBSA establish a clear set of guidelines and rules for Canadian airports, to get a higher level of service than we now have,” says Jim Facette, President and CEO, CAC.  “Airports require customs to be available when they need them.  The old framework was based on rules that went back to 1987.”
Already, Facette adds: “Since this spring, all National Airport System facilities have 16 hours of CBSA service a day.  This brings them up to a minimum standard.”  He also praises the part of the Framework that allows airports to fill out self-assessments on-line; improved CBSA services will be provided on an as-needed basis.
The Canadian government announced earlier this year that it was investing money in expanding publicly funded services provided by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) at six strategic Canadian airports.  The investment was made under the provisions of the CBSA Air Services Policy Framework.
According to CBSA, it will make investments in the 2009-10 fiscal year totalling C$5,053,103 (US$4.36m) at six airports.  For example, CBSA reports that the Abbotsford International Airport will receive $634,470, and the airport’s customs costs will now be a free core service.  This service change allows the airport to remain competitive in a dynamic and growing travel industry.
The first international flight out of Abbotsford was in 2003.  Air Transat and WestJet had formed a partnership in 2002 where Air Transat sold flights to the passengers and chartered WestJet aircraft to fly them to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, says Parm Sidhu, airport operations manager.  “Prior to this core services review, we did not have access to CBSA’s services for processing international flights.  The airlines had to enter into a cost-recovery agreement with CBSA to provide border clearance services.  Our low-cost airport was not low-cost internationally [although] most of the National Airport System airports were getting their service for free.  The airport is now entitled to eight hours of border clearance services a day on a seasonal basis.  Airlines will not have to enter into a cost-recovery agreement for CBSA’s services on our three international flights a week this winter.”
A 12 mile (19 km) rapid transit line, due to open late this year, will whisk passengers from Vancouver Airport to the city in 24 minutes. (Larry Goldstein Photography)

The Canadian government is exploring a change to the rules on duty-free sales, including the creation of arrivals duty free shops at Canadian international airports: The proposed changes would allow international travellers to buy duty-free goods in Canada upon arrival in the county but before reaching customs.
Currently, travellers can only buy duty-free goods just before leaving the country, or in other countries immediately prior to boarding their aircraft for Canada.  In March the government began consultations on a proposed arrivals duty-free programme, and wound up its consultations this May.
“We advocated arrivals duty-free shops in Canada.  This would benefit airports and let them diversify their revenue sources.  We are talking about repatriating up to $60 million in sales,” said Facette.
On May 8, Ottawa reported the signing of a “historic” air service agreement between Canada and the European Union.  It will allow Canadian and EU air carriers to fly between anywhere in Canada and anywhere within the EU.  “Of the 40 European passenger air carriers capable of serving Canada today, fewer than half currently do so,” added Facette.  “Attracting just a fraction of the remaining air carriers would translate into big business for Canada’s airports, a boon for consumers, and tremendous economic benefits for the community through increased trade and tourism.”
Bill S-2, an amendment to the Customs Act, received Royal Assent this June 11.  In layman’s terms, this amendment gives CBSA more flexibility to intercept arriving international passengers before they reach the arrivals areas, which up to now is where CBSA agents have had to wait to ‘collar’ persons of interest.  This flexibility will be achieved by declaring particular sections to be Customs Controlled Areas (CCA); eg, gate, tarmac or baggage claim areas.  This ability to take people aside in a CCA would help to maintain the flow of international passengers through the arrivals areas, according to Facette.  “From a broad perspective these amendments modernise the Customs Act to meet the needs of 2009.
 
Communicating
Canadian airports continue to refine and add communications services for their personnel, passengers and communities.  The Vancouver Airport Authority, for example, launched WebTrak this May.  It displays the general location and flow of air traffic, and noise, in the vicinity of the airport.  Real-time flight tracks are delayed ten minutes, airline and flight numbers are not displayed and law enforcement and military flights are hidden.  Five of the airport’s 20 noise-monitoring terminals (NMTs) throughout Metro Vancouver currently feed A-weighted decibel figures to Webtrak.  Eventually all 20 NMTs will feed WebTrak.
Last November Vancouver became the first major Canadian airport to offer passengers free wireless Internet access.  The service is available throughout the whole airport, according to Grant Fengstad, the airport’s Manager, Technology Planning.
Calgary also moved to a free access model just before Christmas.  The airport decided that the added value of quick and easy passenger access was worth forgoing revenues and absorbing the added cost: “We had a lot of requests from passengers to have free access.  We are always interested in enhancing the passenger experience and expect to pick up some revenues with our revised model,” explained Paul Lawrence, Director of Information Technology and Telecommunications with the Calgary Airport Authority.  “The customers experience some frustration with the original hotspot log-in process.  Some users said it wasn’t worth the bother for the few minutes they wanted to use it.  We have seen a ten-fold growth in the public wi-fi usage since we went to the free environment.”
Ottawa-based BOLDstreet, which bills itself as Canada’s leading provider of public wi-fi solutions, helped Calgary develop the interface page and put up the links to Facebook and the Internet.  BOLDstreet is helping the airport develop a revenue model for the free wi-fi.
Abbotsford airport is also considering going to a hybrid free/fee access model.  “We would like to go to free Internet.  We are looking to move to 15 minutes free, and then if you want more time than that, you would pay for it.  You would also see advertising,” says Sidhu.
Wi-fi is also expanding into CUSS kiosks and baggage reconciliation; eg, baggage agents in the new Transborder Departure Sector will use barcode scanners to confirm passengers’ flight records and board the passengers in the departure control system (DCS).  DCS is linked to the Baggage Reconciliation System and each passenger’s status will generate a load/not load message for their baggage.
The next big wireless application at Canadian airports will likely be GateFusion, which allows large data transfers between planes at the gate and their ground applications.  Launched in 2007 by global communications, engineering and integrations provider ARINC, it is not yet operating in Canada, but ARINC has been setting the stage by negotiating early with wi-fi service providers.  For example, it has agreements in place to install GateFusion at Pearson with 90 days notice.  Trudeau and Vancouver are the two other big candidates in Canada.
GateFusion is designed to serve aircraft like the Boeing 787 and Airbus A380, which are equipped with wi-fi capability requiring gate link connectivity.  “Today, airlines are using various ‘sneakernet’ update solutions, including disks, drives, thumb drives to load and unload data from aircraft.  GateFusion automates this process,” says Mike Dufton, Sales Director for commercial aviation solutions, ARINC.
WebTrak allows anyone with Internet access to see real-time and historical flight and noise data at Vancouver airport. (YVR)

Infrastructure
Despite the downturn, work on most infrastructure improvements continue.
Vancouver is scheduled to open a public observation area for viewing airside activities.  Accessible from landside, it will include interactive kiosks that give information about the airport.
Calgary should complete its 1,900-space multi-storey car park by the end of this year.  The airport authority has begun design work on a $1.3-billion international concourse, with construction scheduled to begin in 2010.  It has also started environmental assessments and planning for a $500-million, 14,000ft (4,267m) runway, designated 16L/34R.  Construction will begin in 2011.
Edmonton will be expanding its terminal with a $1-billion development.  It will include new gates, airline technologies, shops and other passenger amenities.
The Saskatoon airport has reportedly decided to launch an $80-million passenger terminal expansion; construction could begin in 2011.  Ottawa completed its Phase II airport terminal expansion project late last year.
Halifax will be working this summer and autumn on apron and gate asphalt milling and replacement, and will complete asphalt milling and replacement work on taxiway Alpha.  On the downside, work on the new Sheraton Hotel adjacent to the terminal building was put on hold for 12 months, until January 31, 2010.
Back in April Aéroports de Montreal announced that Air Liquide will lead a $14-million hydrogen energy project to demonstrate the possibilities of using wide-spread hydrogen energy and fuel cell technologies at Trudeau airport.  The project will include on-site fuelling stations and vehicles.