Paul Benoit - Assemblée annuelle publique - le 30 avril 2003

An allocution by:
Paul Benoit, President and CEO

Good afternoon.

While there has been much activity in the aviation industry in the first months of 2003, and as a result, much to say, we are here today to discuss the results that were achieved by the Ottawa International Airport Authority for the year 2002.
It gives me great pleasure to do so.

2002 was by all accounts, a challenging year.
We called it the “perfect economic storm”, and that’s truly what it was. It now looks like 2003 will be the “perfect economic tsunami”.

The industry was still recovering from the aftermath of the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks in so many ways.

Airlines had gone bankrupt, routes were eliminated and let’s face it, there were some members of the public who were, and still are, reluctant to travel by air.

In 2002 there was significant softening in the economy and a major shift in employment that saw the federal government once again take on the position of dominant employer in the National Capital Region.

All of these issues impacted the Ottawa Airport. Because our revenues are derived largely from aeronautical fees such as landing fees and loading bridge charges, the difficulties faced by our partners result in budgetary shortfalls for the airport.

Pendant que nous nous serrions la ceinture (financièrement parlant), toute l’équipe de l’aéroport a magnifiquement relevé le défi de nos engagements budgétaires.

Nous avons respecté nos obligations, et sommes même allés plus loin, en réalisant de nouveaux gains d’efficacité exigeant créativité et souplesse de la part de notre personnel.
De fait, nous avons complété un grand nombre des projets d’investissement qui avaient presque été annulés dû à la faiblesse des revenus.

Nous sommes allés de l’avant avec les projets de restauration côté piste, la démolition des hangars désaffectés, et le renouvellement du système électrique qui alimente l’aéroport.
Et, bien sûr, nous avons consacré beaucoup d’énergie à notre principale initiative – le Projet d’expansion de l’aéroport.
Nous sommes restés fidèles aux principes du projet dont nous vous avons parlé l’an dernier -- à savoir un projet souple, abordable et efficient.

Comme la plupart d’entre vous le savent déjà, la mise en service de notre nouvelle aérogare ultramoderne est prévue pour le dimanche 12 octobre – soit 6 mois avant l’échéance. De plus, nous sommes heureux de le dire, nous avons respecté le budget.

Nous sommes très fier de ce que ces nouvelles installations apporteront à la collectivité.
Elles assureront un meilleur accès à Ottawa et l’Outaouais comme destination d’affaires et touristique, et constituera une porte d’entrée digne de la région de la capitale nationale.
L’aéroport continuera d’avoir un effet positif sur l’économie locale.

As the region expands, we too will grow.
In fact, we’re not building for today, but rather for anticipated growth in the industry and the region, until the year 2020.

People are always curious to know how the project progressed so quickly. There were a number of contributing factors, not the least of which was the strong focus on the disciplines of cost control, and remaining true to the original concept

We think it also had a lot to do with the level of partnership that was developed with our contractors and subcontractors, all of whom felt a sense of ownership and pride in the project, and who have worked very diligently towards the goal of opening day.

Safety has always been our #1 priority, and the excellent safety record that has been maintained on the construction site reinforces that philosophy.
By the end of 2002, more than one million hours had been logged on the project without a lost time accident.
This represents a significant accomplishment for all involved, and something to celebrate; it is truly a remarkable achievement.

Je suis convaincu que le 12 octobre prochain, la collectivité toute entière sera très fier de la nouvelle aérogare.

L’expansion est entièrement financée par les frais d’amélioration aéroportuaire.
C’est à-dire sans la moindre subvention gouvernementale.

Parce que ces frais sont échelonnés sur de nombreuses années, nous avons dû avoir recours à du financement à long terme.
En collaboration avec les milieux financiers, nous avons effectué une émission d’obligations, laquelle a connu un franc succès.
Après une revue approfondie, les firmes Moody’s, Standard & Poors et DBRS, ont reconnu l’excellence de notre organisation et nous ont accordé de hautes cotes de crédit.
Il a été extrêmement réconfortant de recevoir ce vote de confiance du milieu financier envers la gestion et les opérations aéroportuaires.

There was more good news in 2002.
Towards the latter part of the year, we started to see some signs of improvement in the industry.
Passenger traffic started to pick-up.

We also saw some encouraging indications of newfound competition, which hadn’t been seen in the industry since early 2001.
And we saw the launch of new air services and airlines.
Highlights include:

•My Travel added charter flights to the United Kingdom;

•Continental Airlines added flights to northern New York, which is important because it opened up access to key destinations in the U.S.; and

•Zoom Airlines was launched in conjunction with Go Travel Direct, offering 15 flights per week to popular sun destinations.
We still have a long way to go, however, in order to get volumes back to where they were pre 9-11.

Teamwork made the difference for the Ottawa Airport in 2002.

We are very fortunate to have a dedicated team, who never lost sight of the Authority’s goals and objectives.

My sincere thanks to the entire Ottawa Airport Authority Team for their contribution over the past year, and since transfer; they have made a difference in the community, to the environment, and to each other.

I also extend my thanks to Chairman Claude Bennett for his leadership, and to the Board of Directors for their tremendous support.
They are appointed to the Board as representatives of the community, and they have certainly done the community proud.

Que nous réserve donc l’avenir?

Pour 2003, nous savons qu’il y aura des sacrifices à faire à court terme pour des avantages à long terme.

Lorsque le sort d’Air Canada sera réglé nous assisterons à la renaissance d’une industrie en voie de reconstruction.

Il existe maintenant plusieurs intervenants dans le segment à prix modeste du marché.
Westjet est apparue à Ottawa il y a quelques années, et Jetsgo a débuté ses opérations au début de 2003, alors que CanJet renaissait.

Il sera intéressant de suivre l’évolution de l’industrie –- de voir le résultat de l’augmentation de la concurrence, et le rôle qu’Air Canada jouera dans ce nouveau contexte.

La demande de voyages resurgira et l’Aéroport international d’Ottawa sera bien positionné pour relever le défi.

And, what would our Annual Public Meeting be without Benoit making a few comments on federal rent?
As you’ve no doubt heard and read over the past two months, the federal government has been downloading a significant burden of costs onto airport authorities, rent, police, security, free space and parking to name a few.

We have horrendous rent payments to make, which are increasing every year, and we are obligated to pay hefty fit-up and space costs for government agencies.

The free space alone will cost this community more than $28M to build. Free parking exceeds $250,000 per year. This government just doesn’t get it (there is no such thing as free)! Their free ride is paid for by the airlines and by you in increased costs.
The burden must be lifted.

We can’t afford for any other airlines to disappear from the radar screen – it’s not good for the travelling public, or the country as a whole.
We as airports can help by not increasing airline rates and charges, but we can’t do that as long as our payments to the government increase at such staggering rates.

We need the feds to come out of the analysis paralysis that has kept them “reviewing the cost issues” for so many years now, and to take concrete and positive action.

Will it be difficult as we wait for help to arrive and decisions to be made?
You bet it will.
But as someone once said, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
We’re getting very strong.

Cela dit, nous avons bien hâte à l’automne, au jour où la poussière de la construction sera enfin retombée, où la nouvelle aérogare resplendira, où nous accueillerons les premiers passagers à l’aérogare.

The future is almost here, and we’re ready for it.