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Ask Reg - Responses from the Tuesday thread.

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  • Ask Reg - Responses from the Tuesday thread.

    My ‘opening statement’ for today’s round of comments is – I know you are an informed group, and that you take the time to consider and debate issues around air service. If there are thoughts, comments, opinions on what we’re doing right or wrong, or what we should be doing, please let me know. I won’t give you my opinion on your opinion, but I’m interested in hearing what you have to say.

    kcantor: Firstly, I would like to express my appreciation for your willingness to publicly participate in discussions surrounding air service delivery within the Edmonton region, particularly in light of the on-going (interminable?) and public nature of some of those discussions.

    Secondly, I would like to ask you to step outside of the particulars of those current discussions and imagine the following set of circumstances:

    1. All air service to the Edmonton region is currently being provided at the Namao airfield and this has been the case for the past 95 years and that airfield has been available under the terms of a 100 year lease with no renewal rights or options.

    2. 100 years ago a group of forward thinking individuals had bequeathed to the Edmonton region those lands currently occupied by the Cooking Lake, Edmonton City Centre, Villeneuve and Edmonton International Airports and those bequests were all made on the basis that each of them was to remain completely undeveloped for 100 years. At the end of those 100 years however, all of these parcels would then be free to be developed for whatever urban need or service would best suit the needs of the region for the next 100 years.

    3. Other than the above, development in the Edmonton region has taken place in exactly the same fashion as it presently exists.

    4. The landlord at the Namao airfield has just provided written notice than under no circumstances will the original lease be extended and that all air services for the region must be relocated elsewhere prior to the end of the lease.

    Thirdly, all of the municipal jurisdictions and other governing bodies connected to the provision of air services within the Edmonton region have retained you on a carte blanche basis to design the most efficient and comprehensive air services delivery system for the region to take us through the next 100 plus years.

    The sole conditions attached to that task would be that you cannot utilize any land other than the above four parcels. You are not required to use all four but you can use all four or any portion of those four without having to use the entire parcel. You are free to incorporate or make provisions for complementary uses on any portion of any parcel not being used for the provision of air services if you deemed that to be beneficial for the provision of air services. You can also retain a portion – say 25% - of any sales proceeds of all or any portion of those parcels not utilized for the provision of air services and use those funds to offset any other development costs that may be incurred in implementing your overall plan. Any “off-site” servicing costs such as roads or transit would be cost-shared such that only 25% of those costs would be attributed to the air services provider and the cost of acquiring and maintaining things such as approach cones on an ongoing basis would be considered a servicing cost although it can be presumed that there are no physical impediments in any of these locations to actually securing them.

    In the above, "air services" is considered to be broader than the pure provision of access to air travel and should include the kinds of service and amenities that would foster the ongoing development of an aerospace "centre of excellence" in the Edmonton region.

    And now the question… following the implementation of all of your recommendations, what would the comprehensive and integrated air services delivery system for the Edmonton region look like?

    edmontonenthusiast: 2) Do you support the close of the Edmonton Municipal Airport?

    Well I don’t think you’ll be entirely satisfied with my partial answer, but I see where you’re going CK. Our reality is that we have what we have. And I’ve said that unless a different decision is made, we’ll continue to operate City Centre as an airport. As we told the city and said publicly, if the owners of that City Centre Airport land – namely the citizens of Edmonton through their representatives on city council – choose a different use for that land, yes aviation users could be accommodated through a combination of other airport facilities. If you assume the broad range of local aviation facilities that is available: Cooking Lake, Villeneuve, Josephburg and the International – some tenants would also have choices.
    There would be natural choices for some segments. For example, Villeneuve would be the obvious airport for flight training, which is about 40% of the aircraft movements at City Centre. Medevac may continue choosing to operate helicopter operations from a helipad at City Centre, with fixed wing operating from the International – or perhaps the architects of the medevac system would integrate both at the International.
    Admittedly, I have only partially answered the question, but I don’t think I could do so fully without developing a white paper or indulging in further discussion over a glass or two of wine.

    Jstock: Never flown in my life. What is your preferred airline to travel on?

    As an airport, we don’t declare a favoured airline. We do promote competition because it keeps costs competitive, and allows travellers to choose their own priorities.

    MylesC: 1) We know about the future terminal expansion, but when on the timeline is a renovation/retrofit of the original north terminal? I've had a few WestJet travellers comment to me that our airport looks like it's out of the 60s b/c they never really left the north terminal on the way in (these first timers I don't necessarily get to talk to on the way out).

    A consideration with the north terminal is that, in our medium range development plans, part of the north terminal may have to be demolished as we expand to the north.

    However, this year we will be renovating the washrooms, and have close to $1 million set aside to upgrade other aesthetic components like carpeting, ceiling tiles and paint. We are also working on some special projects such as artwork, and northern themed installations in the Gate 7 boarding area.

    We have been talking to WestJet. You likely know that we invested capital last year for the new open flow through check-in model that WestJet now uses in North Terminal Departures. That has been a significant improvement from both an aesthetic and processing perspective. On the WestJet arrivals level, we’ve started a project to repaint, remove the signage clutter and redo those large mural walls behind the baggage carousels with better graphics.

    AAAE: When will detailed interior and exterior renderings of the terminal extension be released?
    I saw on the news what appeared to be a 3d fly-by rendition of the future airport. Could this be posted to Is there a plan to make the terminal extension more "world-class" then the present terminal? For eg. a public art budget? (I believe YYZ spent about $30 million on art in the new T1). What specifically will we be getting in a new terminal for 1.1B? What new technologies or architectural features will be included? Could more be built for $1.1B today, with falling costs in the present economic environment, than when the project was first announced?

    SteveB: 1. When might we see more detailed drawings of the terminal extension and when would you expect to see construction commence?

    We’ve posted the Global pieces online here, and the flyby is included in that. Yes, we will also post those to as well. The flyby is just conceptual at this point, and as soon as we have additional pieces we will post those as well. Moving to art: with Expansion 2012, we are developing general themes that will be integrated within our new retail program. For example, we’re looking at integrating Old Strathcona by incorporating light standards and other recognizable neighbourhood features into a feature retail zone. We have also identified a key area with the terminal expansion that will be a crossroads of passenger traffic, and a natural location for a to-be-determined ‘feature.’ And, we are looking at ways to work with partners to allow exhibits here at the airport rather than purchasing permanent installations. For example, we worked with the Telus World of Science last year to host one of their Bodyworlds exhibits here at the airport. A project we’re working on this year is an exhibit with Edmonton Public Schools to feature student art in our terminal. This approach allows us to balance costs while ensuring regional art and culture are represented at our airport.
    On to the new technologies piece: that is one of the fundamentals of our new brand. We didn’t set out to create a new logo; we set a new standard for the kind of company we needed to be to serve this region. When I talk about the brand, I describe three pillars of our ‘we’ll move you’ brand promise: 1. recommitment to customer service 2. speed enhancing technologies and 3. future airport expansion.

    We’ve already used technology to enable us to serve the 20% over capacity. We’ve added self-serve kiosks to the passenger lounge for example, so that if passengers have had flight impacts, they can print a boarding pass right there. We’ve worked with hotels to customize hotel web check in pages so their customers can get their boarding passes before they even head out to the airport. We’ve also used technology to allow us to introduce the U.S. Quick Connect program (we’ll have to link to that or I could spend another page describing it). The short story of U.S. Quick Connect is that it allows our inbound connecting passengers headed to the U.S. to stay in the lounge upon their arrival. Technology solutions screen their luggage and enable the traveller to quickly transfer right into the U.S. customs area. This supports our growing connecting market, provides a higher level of customer service, makes more efficient use of terminal and staff resources, and sets us up to expand that technology to simplify the entire U.S. check in process once we open Expansion 2012.

    Biometrics will continue to improve passenger processing, and I’m hopeful that additional security technology will continue to make it simpler for us all to get through the passenger screening process.

    Finally, on to the scope and cost of the expansion: we add additional passenger lounge space, with room for more amenities like restaurants and services. We don’t get a lot of extra check-in space, because much of that traditional space will be replaced by technologies that change how we check in (common use equipment such as kiosks versus row and rows of check in counters). It also gets us net 13 new aircraft bridges, which are absolutely critical. Right now, the bridges that we have are absolutely at capacity in our peaks, with aircraft waiting behind them.

    My view is that the two advantages of the cooling economy specific to constructing the terminal now are that we have a lot more comfort that we will be able to deliver the project within that budget, and that we are very satisfied that we have been able to attract an A Team of project partners. (It was just a couple of years ago that we had a tough time even finding partners to bid on our parkade expansion – and that was a nice piece of work!)

    We’re still finalizing drawings and don’t quite have them to the point we can share them. Even that flyby that Global included is conceptual and doesn’t literally represent the expansion. In addition to working on some Expansion 2012 web updates now, we’re working on a developing a new section of our web site to better feature Expansion 2012. One of the projects included in that is a time lapse camera that will track the progress of the expansion. That’s still a few months away, but it’s coming.

    In terms of construction start, we consider construction in progress because we’ve already constructed a significant amount of apron for example. Terminal Express construction starts in about a month.

    grish: You had mentioned 750,000 Edmontonians continue to drive to Calgary to catch their flight. Should or does EIA consider a media campaign to correct this problem? Along the same lines, should there be a greater awareness of the choices and options with our local travel agents? Is EIA focused on adding European and US destinations only or are there destinations like New Delhi and Novosibirsk on the radar as well?

    edmontonenthusiast: 1) How do you and Edmonton Airports plan to get rid of that 750K figure of those going to Calgary? How are we as a city going to reverse that? I personally think we just need more flights, which you told me is something you guys are trying hard to do. But I think you should do something more than get more flights...I don't know exactly what, would you have any ideas? Perhaps a ad campaign, cause if nobody knows we got a flight to Frankfurt, nobody is going to use it and they'll go to Calgary or Toronto or Vancouver.

    Informing the Edmonton community about air service choices is a daily activity undertaken at every level of our organization. A decade or more of media campaigns and millions of dollars have been spent informing Edmontonians to ‘correct this problem’ (ie., Fly Edmonton First) and educate Edmontonians about the benefits of supporting their local airport. A single daily wide-body flight such as the London-Heathrow service will generate in excess of $20 million of economic benefits per year for the Edmonton region. The 750,000 people who currently drive to Calgary to catch a flight, plus the 300-500,000 per year who connect via Calgary to get to their destination, not only limit Edmonton’s chances at new air service, but also hurt our regional economic prosperity. Every Edmonton business, government office and household should be a champion for the Fly Edmonton First policy. Adding over one million flyers to Edmonton’s non-stop passenger base (and subtracting from Calgary’s) will bring new markets like India and Russia one heck of a lot closer!

    In terms of air service campaign our Language of Speed campaign is in the market now. This is the campaign that features non-stop destinations, with a twist: Mexigo, Pronto Plata, Quickadilly, Saskasooner, etc.

    MylesC: 2) Does the EAA have plans to aggressively market itself? As I mentioned, I feel we have a very strong brand image that could be very effectively marketed towards certain markets (take my hometown area of Stettler/Lacombe/Red Deer, for instance). Billboards on Highway 2 south saying something like "EIA - x km closer in the other direction" or what have you. One of Edmonton's weaknesses in the last few decades has been our tendency to be overly nice. While other markets are aggressively marketing themselves, we sit back and try to be nice and build consensus. Well....why not end this and go into the fight with arms swinging? We're finally having the weight to back ourselves.

    It’s almost like you’ve read our brand research! As I referenced in my response to the hotel question, we did hear from our customers that we needed to be bolder and we’re trying! In my response to grish and edmontonenthusiast, I also talked about the continued investment we make in trying to get the word out. I couldn’t even begin to list the specific programs and campaigns we undertake with different market segments. This forum and its members have an influence! We work with political leaders, we host travel agent forums, we visit our connecting markets like Grande Prairie, Fort McMurray, Yellowknife, etc. And, it’s made a difference. But you won’t hear me talk about Edmonton Airports’ air service success; this community really has achieved a great air service success story because of that cumulative effort. We have led the country in passenger growth for three years in a row! And that’s in spite of the ‘natural’ challenges of the Calgary hub and the historic leakage the south.

    I can’t resist one plug here: Our community, represented by our airport, was in Boston last year to accept THE overall industry award for marketing and communications in the Airports Council International-North America’s awards. Not only did we pick up five or six specific awards for projects like air service campaigns and annual reports, but we beat out every other community for the North American airport award. It was an achievement to see Edmonton featured on the stage in Boston in front of all of those airports and airlines! Of course, as my team would expect me to say, now we have to go out there and do even better.

    3) Sorry, a 3rd question on a slightly different point. It's no secret that I'm an employee (for the time being) of Starwood Hotels. Has there been any investigation into getting a non-typical (and so far rare in Canada) hotel at the airport such as an aLoft or element?

    I’m going to answer this in a couple of ways. The first is to describe our ambitions; the ambitions that reflect our Edmonton. I know that this is a theme on C2E and something we discovered with our brand research: Edmonton is changing! We need to change with that. We need to be bold and stand up for what our community deserves and what it needs to serve our businesses, our families, our visiting friends and relatives. So, we want to look at hotel developments from a perspective that is much broader than ‘typical.’ In addition to the traditional chains, we have talked to some boutique operators. In the end, we’ll have to also consider with the customer mix we serve and balance it all out. For example, with more of a hotel chain, are there opportunities to integrate with our expanding connecting market; and communities like Fort McMurray and Grande Prairie.

    Rocket252: My question revolves around scheduled service to Frankfurt. I recall in 2006 there was a concentrated effort to bring a scheduled flight in from Frankfurt and that has continued until today with no success. In fact we have even lost our charter service to Frankfurt. Would you agree that this issue is one not of our ability to support this route but rather political and hub issues related to our proximity to Calgary as well as the actions of Air Canada? How is EAA attempting to do to get Frankfurt service back?

    Escondido: I'm wondering if there's any way EIA has a cost advantage over Calgary International Airport, perhaps due to location, that could work in our favour that could be leveraged to lower fares originating at EIA, and thus attract more people to use our airport?

    While we were very disappointed that Lufthansa announced that they would not be launching service to Edmonton, we are not simply targeting the traditional hubs and carriers; there are others we’re pursuing, as well. As I said yesterday, there is usually more than one air service strategy we’re pursuing. Yes, Air Canada and therefore their Star Alliance partners clearly state that Calgary is their hub, so that’s just fact. This, as well as our proximity to Calgary, does add challenges to getting those international services.
    Edmontonians’ consistent use of EIA’s non-stop flights to gateways like London and Mexico City are absolutely critical to prove the viability of Edmonton as an international air market. The trend is headed the right way. I actually had two interesting experiences taking flights from Edmonton to London: On one, I met a couple from Vancouver who travelled to Edmonton first because our flight schedule to London was more convenient for them. On another, I met a woman who actually came up to Edmonton from Calgary because she got a better price on the flight. And if we look over the last year, we are seeing more Calgarians driving to Edmonton to use our non-stops and a declining number of Edmontonians headed to Calgary using theirs. Of course, the numbers are hugely disproportionate; there are still way too many of us headed to Calgary to use their service (equivalent to filling seven wide-body aircraft a day).

    Our business case for this service remains strong, and can become stronger as more Edmontonians use our international non-stops. We are optimistic for securing a complementary gateway air service to Europe, and it is not a matter of if but when. In the meantime, fly the International non-stops!

    In terms of cost, positioning ourselves as a cost-competitive airport is important. We have held our aeronautical fees to airlines since 2005 and didn’t raise our AIF when the other airports did. This means when we really have exhausted every other means of revenue generation and cost containment, and have to raise fees, we’ve only does so after a long period of holding them flat.

    53latitude: As a frequent business traveler, my options to selected U.S. destinations has significantly improved. Now with the LHR route I am able to get to my meetings in Northern England very quickly. While these steps are made, I don't understand the continued lack of Air Canada or Continental on the IAH route. Do you foresee this route returning with Continental joining the Star Alliance? What about the IAD or EWR?

    I described some reasons for Continental’s withdrawal in yesterday’s responses. Just to expand a bit, the timing was so unfortunate because it just preceded EIA’s rapid growth. Things might have been different if: there was a different aircraft type available, the schedule better suited business travel, and if they’d been with us for even one more year to benefit from that huge growth trend we’ve enjoyed. Back to reality: with our sustained (even into this year) double-digit U.S. destination growth, and with hub-busters like regional jet aircraft and growth of point to point service – more non-stop destinations, airlines and routes are profitable between Edmonton and points south than a few years ago. Houston is at the top of our target destination list and we are cautiously optimistic that we will see it return.

    77Edmonton: Can you please define "General Aviation"?

    There are varied definitions of GA. What is consistent is that it excludes scheduled air services like the WestJets/Air Canadas, etc. It does include a variety of sectors such as flight training, medevac, and private/hobby flying, for example.

    24karat: I would like to know what we can expect in passenger and visitor comforts at YEG in the future. Free Wi-fi has been mentioned on another thread. Can we expect to see a similar service here? Will there be more restaurants and shops on both sides of security? Will there be more lounges added, especially on the American side? I was at Changi Airport in Singapore recently and I saw free charging stations for laptops, mobile phones and iPods. Is there any chance that such a facility is in YEG's future?

    A focus on passenger and visitor comforts has been an evolving process at EIA, particularly over the last three years. So much so, we created a Passenger Experience business unit in recognition of the fact that there’s more to an airport than just runways. Our customer service model is driven by two fundamental goals: giving customers what they want while also generating revenue to help Edmonton International Airport offset costs and remain competitive with other cities (see my note to Escondido).
    We have recently made and are continuing to make additions to our lineup of restaurants. Last November, the Mountain Lodge Bar & Grill opened in the passenger departures lounge. Last month, we welcomed a Chili’s location and a new liquor store: A Flight of Wine & Spirits. Later this month, a Wok Box will be opening. In fact, in the last two years, we’ve doubled our food and beverage options. Most of the new dining options have been opened post security in the passenger lounges – which is where passengers tend to experience the most peace of mind – but we’ve tried to find a good balance between pre- and post-security food and beverage services.

    When we say that the airport is 20% over its current design capacity, that likewise extends beyond just boarding gates; there is limited room for more bars and restaurants. Expansion 2012 will add 40 per cent more space to the International, which will allow us to further expand our food, beverage and retail services.

    With respect to the size of our U.S. departures lounge, it is indeed severely undersized and that will also be remedied with Expansion 2012. The growth of our non-stop flights to U.S. destinations demands it. We’re also looking at opening or expanding other lounge facilities in the airport; that is partly dependent on space as well.

    Charging stations: we have electrical plug ins through the airport and workstations with electrical plug-ins in three locations post security (one by Gate 18, one by Gate 56 and one in U.S. departures which house four plug-ins each along with a semi-private workstation and chair. This is in addition to electrical plug-ins in numerous locations.

    As for free Wi-Fi, that’s a bit of a balance for us. It is a source of revenue for the airport, and you’ve heard me talk a couple of times on C2E that this kind of revenue is important for us to remain competitive with other airports. We also know that more travellers are asking for it, so it’s something we’ll need to take a look at.
    Last edited by Mr. Reg Milley; 12-03-2009, 08:52 AM. Reason: Spacing and clarity, one question moved