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Aviation competitiveness an election issue, airports say

Sept. 25, 2008, Ottawa -  The Canadian Airports Council today called on the federal political parties to make improving aviation competitiveness an important part of their platforms.


September 25, 2008
By Carey Fredericks

Sept. 25, 2008, Ottawa –  The Canadian Airports Council today called on the federal political parties to make improving aviation competitiveness an important part of their platforms. 

The association, which serves as the voice of Canada's airports, said aviation competitiveness is a key component of improving Canada's world standing in international trade and tourism.

"Tourism is one of Canada's most important industries and a major employer of ordinary Canadians, but a competitive disadvantage for Canada's aviation sector is hurting Canada's competitiveness as a world class tourist destination," said CAC President and CEO Jim Facette.  "Airport rent, air access to foreign markets, adequate resources for border services and aviation security – these are all impacting Canada's competitiveness as an air service destination and aviation is an important facilitator of global tourism and trade."

In a speech delivered in Montreal last week, Transat President and CEO Jean-Marc Eustache said "Canada is currently not attractive to air carriers, either as a hub or as a gateway to North America, due to federal policy that has turned Canada's airports into "cash cows" for the government.  Canada's airports say they couldn't agree more, and for several years have called for the federal government to eliminate airport rent – a $300 million a year expense that airports have to pass on to air carriers and their passengers.

"Internationally, tourism is a $6 trillion industry responsible for some 220 million jobs around the world – 2 million of them in Canada," said Mr. Facette.  "Yes, international travellers are expected to increase from around 900 million today to 1.6 billion in 2020.  But Canada's ability to capture its fair share of this market is seriously threatened by federal policies today that make Canada a less attractive destination for the world's air carriers."
 
The issue of aviation competitiveness in Canada is of increased concern today as the industry globally faces fuel prices that are squeezing the finances of airlines around the world.  These airlines face a great degree of choice about where they put their aircraft. Airports in Canada must compete for these aircraft, as well as for local travellers.
 
"Airports also compete for local traffic. In Canada, airports in the southern part of the country face competition from airports located just on the other side of the U.S. border," Aéroports de Montréal President and CEO Jim Cherry told delegates this week to the Airports Council International (ACI) 18th General Assembly in Boston.  Mr. Cherry currently serves as chairman of ACI. "More than ever, airports are courting airlines for new routes and putting themselves under pressure to be efficient with high standards of aircraft and passenger operations."
 
The CAC noted that several key recommendations of the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade's 2007 Ten Steps to a Better Trade Policy took aim at the issue of aviation competitiveness.  The CAC joined the committee's call to negotiate more international air service agreements, wrap up existing free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations, pursue more foreign investment protection and promotion agreements (FIPAs) and improve domestic policy to help Canadian companies compete globally.

The Canadian Airports Council has issued an election questionnaire to each of the federal political parties.  In addition to airport rent, the questionnaire polls each of the parties on the continued liberalization of Canada's air service agreements with countries around the world – most notably the European Union, with which talks are ongoing – and other issues of primary importance to Canada's airports.

About the Canadian Airports Council
 
The Canadian Airports Council (CAC) is the voice for Canada's airports.  Its 48 members represent more than 180 airports, including all of the National Airports System (NAS) airports and most significant municipal airports in every province and territory. Together, CAC members handle virtually all of the nation's air cargo and international passenger traffic and 95% of domestic passenger traffic.  They create well in excess of $45 billion in economic activity in the communities they serve.  And more than 200,000 jobs are directly associated with CAC member airports, generating a payroll of more than $8 billion annually.