Travelers' Haven

Aug. 8, 2001

Travelers' Haven

Ottawa works to create an airport terminal that reflects the vibrant city it calls home

By Lindsay M. Hitch, Assistant Editor

August 2001

OTTAWA—Privatization of Canada’s airports has allowed the Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport Authority to concentrate efforts on the needs of its customers. The new terminal building incorporates conveniences and local flavor in the hopes of enhancing the ’traveler experience’. "One of the things people like about this airport is its convenience. Fast in, fast out. And we wanted to make sure in the new terminal building that we maintained that," says John Spinks, vice president of business development and marketing.

The new terminal building will exemplify efficiency and visibility with streamlined check-in, an atrium extending from the baggage claim level to the third-floor departures area, and a parking garage with skywalks to the terminal.

Not often a term associated with airports, creating the right ambience is an integral part of the new terminal project.
"People get into an airport, they say it’s one of the most stressful things in terms of travel," says Paul Benoit, president and CEO. "How do you take that anxiety level that the passenger has and really reduce it? How do you make it so that he’ll feel comfortable whether he’s a first-time flyer or a 20th-time flyer?"
Benoit adds that many airports address that anxiety with increased signage. Ottawa has chosen to allow the terminal building itself to direct traffic. By keeping the floors open and allowing passengers to see the airplanes, security, gates, and baggage the moment they walk in, airport officials anticipate little need for signage.
"One of the things that we’re trying to achieve in the design is something that is very open, very bright, very airy, and that basically you can see where you need to go; that we can minimize the amount of signage necessary for way finding," says Spinks.
Plans are being finalized for a waterfall in the terminal. "Water is soothing, but it also represents a lot of the history around here, that we are at the confluence of three rivers," says Benoit.
The waterfall will be one of a number of efforts to tie the airport in to the surrounding community. With its climate, waterways, and cultural mix, Ottawa is a city of constant activity. Benoit hopes to make the airport a focal point of the city and make travelers aware of area events.
Jumbotrons are planned for placement in key areas in the terminal to show scenes from community festivals, parks, and other events. A large advertising screen will likely cover the 30- by 100-foot wall separating domestic and international baggage claim for general advertising and community event spotlights.
The existing terminal features a local artists’ program that will be continued in the new facility. Area artists place artwork and contact information on the terminal walls in two-month increments. The program has been successful, with most artists requesting additional slots; the terminal is booked through 2001.

Along the lines of community ties, Spinks explains that the retail and concessions will reflect parts of Ottawa as well. The By Ward Market in downtown Ottawa features blocks and blocks of vendors, shops, and outdoor cafes. Spinks is hoping to recreate that feel in a second-level "streetscape" of shops and restaurants within the terminal.
Plans for that area’s concessions spaces include shop extensions into what would ordinarily be viewed as public space. Spinks adds that the airport will furnish plants and landscaping to help pick up the By Ward Market feel.
Currently, concessions activity is 80 percent post-security and 20 percent pre-security. The new building will offer 60 percent post-security and 40 percent pre-security.
Spinks explains the reasoning for the adjustment: "In the U.S., well-wishers can go through security to the gate; in Canada you can’t. You have to have a ticket to go beyond security. So that sort of makes it a little more difficult for us.... You’ve got to keep some of the concessions pre-security as well."
Concessions plans take into account convenience, visibility, the type of customer and destination, and an incorporation of the community.

A Work in Progress

Construction on the new terminal at Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport began May 18, just to the north of the existing terminal. The project will be completed in three phases, with the last stage set to be finished in 2020.

The first phase, to be completed in 2004, consists of a new terminal building connected to the existing facility. This project includes 16 gates, a 1700-stall parking garage, and a new roadway system.
Plans include two skywalks from the third level of the parking garage to the second level of the terminal. Travelers with baggage will check in on the third floor, while those with only carry-on luggage will have the option of electronic check-in, heading straight to security.
"So if you’re a business traveler, you can park on level three of the parking garage, walk directly across, grab your boarding pass at one of the automated kiosks, go directly through security, and you bypass all of this [ticket counters]," explains John Spinks, vice president of business development and marketing.
The second phase is scheduled for completion in 2010, and will entail demolition of the older terminal and expansion of the new terminal to the south as well as additional parking.
The third phase will add terminal space to the north end by 2020.
Cost was a large factor in settling on a design, explains president and CEO Paul Benoit. "A lot of consultation took place with the community in terms of where we were going and we looked at three or four options. And again, we get no government funding."
The project is expected to cost $300 million (Canadian) and is being funded entirely through a $10/ticket Airport Improvement Fee added to the ticket price and collected by the airlines.