One on One: CAC's Jim Facette

Canada's airports are faring well enough; it's Ottawa that presents some challenges

Rent elimination is the ultimate. Our airports have more than paid the asset value; airports in Canada have invested more than $9.5 billion in their infrastructure without any tax assistance. We say, you’ve gotten your money back [but] you’re still collecting $280 million a year on airport rent. Imagine how that can be used back into the system?

AB: The issue of competitiveness is a hot button with CAC.

Facette: Rent falls under that; another thing is we have spent a lot of time presenting a competitiveness angle. In the U.S. you have foreign trade zones; we don’t have any at all. We believe the time is long overdue for airports to work with the manufacturing and the other transportation communities to develop foreign trade zones.

A lot of the things we’re doing in Canada go to that very point, competitiveness. Airports in Canada want to position themselves to compete with the best in the world.

AB: And the federal government is making progress on Open Skies agreements.

Facette: The board position of the CAC is a simple one: Members are supportive of Open Skies, period. We are very pleased and really look forward to the full ratification of the Canada-EU Open Skies agreement. We’re optimistic that that will be done this fall and we will see a fall formal signing. And now with South Korea.

We’re getting our way there incrementally. Is it important to go faster? Yes. The U.S. has over 90 agreements.

AB: CAC was working with Transport Canada to determine the environmental footprint of airports. What’s the status of the initiative?

Facette: CAC is working with Transport Canada so when it does consider any new regulations, which we’re not looking for, that they write policies that come from ICAO and its current efforts and that they actually make sense.

There’s some progress. In June 2007 under then-chairman Jim Cherry, we wrote Transport Canada and said we think there’s a need for some type of environmental plan in aviation in Canada. We are working with Transport Canada to come up with a standard way to measure the greenhouse gas footprint that exists on the ground at airports across Canada. Some airports like Toronto and Montreal have already moved ahead.

Also recently, we’ve agreed to sit around the table with the carriers, with NavCanada, ourselves, and Transport Canada to see if we can as an industry come up with a memorandum of understanding to commit to work in various ways to reduce greenhouse gases in Canada.

If you look at the broader context of airports in the world, and look at what the ACI-NA board of directors recently did in June as well as what ACI World and other regions have done, what Canada is doing is a part of a continuum of where airports have said that we’re going to do our part, and here’s what our part is.

AB: What serious cross-border issues remain?

Facette: There’s one issue that has not gone away: the rescreening of bags coming from Canadian pre-clearance airports. It’s a low-hanging fruit issue. A harmonization, a recognition that the screening standards in Canada are equal to that which exists in the United States is important. We’ve costed out a huge savings on the U.S. side that can be achieved by eliminating it. We don’t believe it’s necessary.

AB: The 2010 Winter Olympics are coming up in Vancouver. What impact is that having?

Facette: Vancouver and [British Columbia-]-based airports have really been engaged in that from a capacity and security perspective, and a winter maintenance perspective. The winter last year in Vancouver was sort of unprecedented in the area, and the ability to handle that weather again became a question.

The addition of new technology to handle Customs will really help. It’s a kiosk system; you show your passport; you’re given some paperwork; and while you’re doing that there’s somebody ahead of you going to a document check officer. So you double your throughput.

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