And No. 1 in North AmericaThe Ottawa International Airport is the No. 1 airport in North America and No. 2 in airports of its size worldwide, according to the results of a global quality program released Tuesday. The Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport Authority won the Airport Service Quality awards from the Airports Council International, the global representative of the industry.
The airport in Guayaquil, Ecuador, nabbed first place in the category of best airport in the world serving between two million and five million passengers per year. Halifax airport took third place.
Ottawa had faced stiff competition against 225 competitors, including the airports in Indianapolis and Chiang Mai in Thailand. Paul Benoit, president and CEO of the Ottawa airport, gave credit for the airport's showing to its 5,000 employees.
"An airport is a small city," he said. "And this one has great deputies."
The airport got the plum spot after passengers gave high scores in nearly 1,500 surveys, which were filled out at the departure gate throughout 2011. The questions on the survey encompassed 36 different aspects of the airport experience, including staff efficiency, facility cleanliness, and general ambience. A minimum number of the airport service quality (ASQ) surveys are completed each quarter to ensure a variety of passengers are represented. Ottawa airport has ranked in the top three in each of the qualifying categories since the ASQ Awards launched in 2006.
According to an economic impact study by the airport, the location is growing at a rapid pace. Passenger traffic between 2006-2010 at the Ottawa Airport has grown by almost 20 per cent, the study found. This is double the average of the other eight major airports in the country. The airport is also one of the largest economic boosters of any industry in the region, annually contributing an estimated $2.2 billion, with more than 150 organizations operating on-site.
Benoit has seen substantial change in his 15 years with the airport. He remembers a time when passengers had to lug their baggage across an icy outdoor parking lot during snow storms. Now, that same parking lot is indoors."We've taken it from essentially a Third World airport to No. 1," he said. He said part of the change reflects the private companies that the airport relies on for everything from equipment to renovations and coffee. The government doesn't financially support airports in Canada, so there is an estimated $5 million of private funding injected into the airport.