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Paying the bills and ensuring safe skies at Ottawa’s airport

Firehal Fire Exercice Boeing
Firehal Fire Exercice Boeing

The Ottawa Macdonald- Cartier International Airport Authority (OMCIAA) is a complex and well-oiled machine. It has to be given how entwined its operations are with Transport Canada, other regulatory authorities, law enforcement and border services. 

The airport must maintain its own fire department, specially trained to deal with mass-casualty events on the tarmac and act as first responders to nearly 200 medical calls in the terminal each year. 

Then there are the costs associated with security at every level, to guard against every imaginable scenario. 

The costs and complexity of its operations only escalate in winter with ice and snow. 

And the airport is responsible for paying for these costs from revenues it generates, without receiving any government assistance. 

That’s right: OMCIAA is not a government agency or Crown corporation. It is a private, non-profit organization responsible for generating its own revenue. 

Its airport lease comes at a cost as well—last year, it paid $8.7 million in rent to the Government of Canada. 

“Much of our budget is spent on what the public doesn’t see,” said Mark Laroche, President and CEO. “We are constantly reinvesting in the equipment, training and infrastructure necessary to maintain and grow an efficient, secure and world-class airport befitting the capital city of a G7 nation.” 

How the airport’s revenue comes and goes 

Last year, the airport generated $118.25 million in revenue. About $45.4 million came from the airport improvement fee (AIF) charged to passengers to help finance the cost of capital improvements at the airport. Another $37.7 million came from the aeronautical revenues charged to carriers for landing and terminal usage. 

The airport also engages in a number of commercial endeavours to ensure travellers have the amenities they expect for a comfortable trip – from limousine services and retail, to grabbing a coffee or a healthy lunch. Concession revenues generated another $10.9 million and car parking revenues totalled $13.7 million. 

The airport also leases surplus land for commercial development – this generated another $6.2 million. But over $24 million was spent last year on interest alone, on outstanding debt of $630.9 million. These monies were borrowed to fund capital programs like runway improvements, new boarding bridges, carpets and new snow-clearing equipment. 

Salaries and benefits accounted for $21.5 million, and materials, supplies and services for another $31.1 million. And then there is that $8.7 million in federal rent as well as payments in lieu of municipal taxes of $5.0 million. 

“All of the revenues we collect are reinvested in the airport’s operation,” said Laroche. “This allows us to maintain our commitment to providing our passengers with a world-class terminal and an exceptional customer experience, and to offer airlines among the lowest fees of the large airports in Canada.” 

To learn more about YOW’s finances, you can read the annual report at