Airport Trading Cards: A Mint-Condition Marketing Opportunity

by Maureen Riley
Executive Director
Salt Lake City Department of Airports

More than 20 million people travel through Salt Lake City International Airport each year. For many of our passengers, the airport plays a big part in their imaginations. From first-time fliers to the most well-versed aviation geeks, airports have an instantaneous appeal. They represent both anticipation and completion, where travelers head off into the world and return home. Airports are also complex and fascinating communities in their own right, as our employees work to ensure safe and secure operations each day.

Earlier this month, SLC joined nearly 20 airports from across the U.S. and Canada in the inaugural series of the North American Airport Trading Cards. The idea for the cards initially had been that of a collectible. Like many of our fellow Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) members, SLC routinely gets requests from airport enthusiasts for memorabilia branded with our three-letter International Air Transport Association (IATA) code. But as SLC’s card started to take shape, another possibility emerged.

SLC Executive Director Maureen Riley and junior aviation enthusiasts show off the SLC trading card

SLC Executive Director Maureen Riley and junior aviation enthusiasts show off the SLC trading card

As the first vice chair of ACI-NA, I represent the interests of not only my own airport, but those of our full membership. ACI-NA is well-known as the “Voice of Airports” in Washington, D.C., and Ottawa, but sometimes it can be a challenge to have airports stick in the minds of lawmakers. The new trading cards series helps us do exactly that.

On the back of SLC’s card, you’ll notice some fun facts, such as how we were the gateway to the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, and that we’re within an hour’s drive to 11 ski resorts. We also offer more than 650 daily arrivals and departures to nearly 90 non-stop destinations. But did you also know that we’re in midst of a $1.8 billion terminal redevelopment program that will be completed in 2022?

It’s this last fact that makes SLC’s trading card more than a keepsake—it transforms it into an advocacy tool. Capital improvement projects, like our terminal redevelopment, might not easily capture the public’s imagination. But when it reads like a batting average, infrastructure investment becomes an all-star stat for a world-class airport.

The next time you’re flying through SLC, stop by an airport information desk to start (or complete) your trading card collection.

Calgary Unveils Canada’s Longest Runway: 17L – 35R

by the Calgary Airport Authority

Ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the June 14 Run on the Runway at Calgary International Airport

Canada’s third-busiest and fastest-growing airport is about to open the country’s longest runway. At 14,000 feet long and 200 feet wide, the new runway will bring more people and add more destinations to the already extensive worldwide network enjoyed by the 14.3 million travelers who pass through YYC annually.

Planning for the runway dates back to the 1970s, and the mega-project features many of the latest technological advances, including:

  • CAT III (a) instrument landing system, aiding aircraft in low visibility operations
  • More than 5,000 LED lights incorporated into the runway and taxiways inset and edge lighting

Fun-runners touch down on Canada's longest runway in Calgary

Completing this massive and state-of-the-art airfield system project was a major milestone for the Authority and the city and province it serves.  To mark this milestone, the Authority reached out to the community to get their ideas on how it should be celebrated. The Authority first turned to social media with the YYC “30 Days, 300 Ideas” campaign, which encouraged the public to share their best ideas on how we should celebrate the completion of the runway. Participants shared far more than our initial goal of 300 ideas.  From concepts ranging from public hot air balloon rides to world record-breaking domino chains, the ideas were diverse and creative! In the end, the winning ideas were to host a run and open the runway to family-fun activities and displays, which meant quickly starting work on planning a full weekend of public activities themed the “YYC Run and Roam the Runway”.

YYC's Roam the Runway brought many Calgarians out to the new 17L-35R on June 15

On June 14, the Authority kicked off the weekend events with the “Run the Runway” fun run, with 1,400 participants racing (or walking and cruising in a state-of-the-art wheelchair) on a 5 K or 8.4 K run under a clear Calgary sky.  On June 15, more than 10,000 guests signed up to “Roam the Runway,“ where guests were treated to some of Calgary’s best food truck treats, a ton of kids events and activities and 36 of the world’s most famous aircraft.  From the historic Gypsy Moth to the futuristic 787 Dreamliner, this was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for everyone that attended. As expected, many photos were taken while tweets and social media updates were too numerous to count.

Young aviation enthusiasts perform a close inspection of 17L-35R

The first aircraft lands on 17L – 35R on Saturday, June 28, at 2:00 p.m. local time, and YYC as well as many aviation enthusiasts are looking forward to having the new runway officially in operation. Follow Calgary International Airport on Facebook and Twitter (@FlyYYC) to keep up to date with all the latest developments.

Denver International Airport’s Hotel and Transit Center: Building a New Community Connection

by Julie Smith
Public Information Officer
Denver International Airport

Denver International Airport CEO Kim Day signs the beam during the topping out event for DIA's Hotel and Transit Center

Standing atop the new hotel under construction at Denver International Airport (DIA), the view of downtown Denver, the Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains stretched out before you, it’s easy to see why airport officials are excited about their new addition. Not only will Denver join the ranks of the world’s top airports offering on-site hotel accommodations, the new Hotel and Transit Center program will connect DIA to Denver like never before.

Made up of three integrated projects, the program includes construction of a new 519-room Westin hotel and conference center, a public transit center which includes a commuter rail station and a centralized pick-up and drop-off location for all public transit buses, and a new 82,000 square foot public plaza.

It’s the new public plaza that DIA’s CEO Kim Day is looking forward to the most. “The plaza that we are creating is going to be a great urban space, connecting our new hotel and transit center to our existing Jeppesen Terminal. It will provide a venue for music, art and events, and will create a cultural connection to downtown, better integrating the airport into the community.”

View from the airfield

It was the idea of connectivity that inspired the design of the entire space. From the train platform, it’s just a quick escalator ride to the terminal and easy access to security screening. From the terminal, arriving passengers are just a few hundred feet from the hotel.

Snaking out from the transit center, the tracks of the new East Rail Line stretch toward the horizon. When rail operations begin in early 2016, commuter trains will connect travelers between DIA and downtown Denver in about 35 minutes. The new 22.8 mile rail line also offers opportunities for transit-oriented developments along what’s been dubbed a “Corridor of Opportunity” by Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock.

Close-up view of the DIA Hotel and Transit Center

DIA’s new Hotel and Transit Center is both the final piece of the airport’s original master plan and the first piece of Denver’s Airport City initiative. It completes the original vision for DIA and opens a new chapter for growth around the world’s second largest airport in terms of land mass. Opening in late 2015, DIA’s next chapter is about to take flight.

The New Fort McMurray International Airport: Gateway to Canada’s Oil Sands

by Jesse Meyer
Manager, Marketing, Communications and Air Service Development
Fort McMurray Airport Authority

The new YMM terminal, at the top of this May 2014 photo. The original YMM terminal, at the bottom, will be used for workforce charters, cargo and private aircraft.

Prior to its opening on June 9, the new Fort McMurray International Airport (YMM) set a goal to redefine air travel in terms of convenience and improving the overall customer experience for the nearly 1.2 million passengers who travel through annually. Not only is the new terminal building easier and faster to move through, customers will experience a new level of comfort in our departure lounges and exceptional selection in retail and dining, as well as a sense of place.

The new terminal building is approximately 15,000 square feet the size of approximately two-and-a-half Canadian football fields) and cost $258 million. It includes four aircraft bridges, two baggage carrousels, and more than 2,200 powered parking stalls.

One of the highlights of the new terminal is the concession program. SNC-Lavalin Airport Group was responsible for assembling a world class offering. From gifts and magazines to meals and beverages, YMM will feature 16 retail and food and beverage outlets to serve the full spectrum of needs while travelling. Passengers arriving at the airport looking for a place to eat will be able to choose from a wider selection of food options including two full service restaurants. The new terminal also will feature numerous digital and dynamic advertising screens including a massive 200 square-foot video wall in the arrivals hall.

An Award Winning State-of-the-Art Terminal

Check-in at the new YMM terminal

Northern Alberta has a natural beauty that is distinctive with dense boreal forest, limitless horizons, and the impressive northern lights. The design of the building had to take into account the drastic range of seasonal temperatures from -45°C/-49°F in winter to +35°C/95°F during the summer. This created some unique challenges that have been addressed beautifully in both form and function of this new building designed by the office of mcfarlane biggar architects + designers. Stantec managed the project while Ledcor was responsible for its construction. The design for the new terminal project was named among 11 award winners of the 2013 Canadian Architect Awards of Excellence for embodying qualities of innovation and overall design excellence. The new terminal is designed to serve a modern and forward-thinking community, providing a springboard for the world as well as a welcoming gateway for residents and visitors alike.

The materials used express the drastic contrast of the region. Weathering steel, bitumen-colored metal cladding and unfinished concrete are among the many design features that add to the palette of the industrial landscape. These industrial materials are complemented with refined yet durable materials to polish the interior space using triple glazing, terrazzo flooring, acoustic wood panels and exposed mass timber structure.

This concept of green building practices is evident in a number of innovative features throughout the building design process. The highlights include passive solar orientation, energy optimization, super-insulated building envelope assemblies, in-floor radiant heating, displacement ventilation, and sophisticated heat-recovery systems.

A large south-facing courtyard was developed to give passengers an outdoor area to visit while passively harnessing the sun’s energy to reduce energy consumption throughout the building.

The most noted unique design element is the mass exposed timber assemblies in the ceiling and wall structure. These use reclaimed wood from the devastating pine beetle epidemic in British Columbia to provide both structure and a warm finish to the interior of the building.

Departure lounge in the new YMM terminal

With its focus on passenger comfort and convenience and its ambition to capture the grandeur and beauty of the region it connects to the rest of the world, the new Fort McMurray International Airport will provide an exciting first and last impression for visitors and the Wood Buffalo community and northern Alberta for generations to come.

Serious Airports Require Serious Solutions

by Kevin M. Burke
President and CEO
Airports Council International-North America

Kevin M. Burke

As the nature of business and tourism grows more global, the role of airports becomes even more important.  Airports are essential to connecting travelers with leisure destinations and businesses with new customers all around the world.  However, U.S. airports were recently scapegoated following the release of a customer service satisfaction survey of the world’s top 100 airports (“If the United States is a Serious Country, Why Can’t It Build a Serious Airport?”).

Like Forbes contributor Eamonn Fingleton, I would love to see more U.S. airports on the list of top 100 global airports, and so would airport directors all across the United States.  North American airports – some of the best and busiest in the world – are the foundation of the global air travel infrastructure system.  But Mr. Fingleton’s charge in his commentary that airport directors have no desire to undertake major improvements highlights two misguided notions.  First, there is widespread misunderstanding about how U.S. airports are funded.  Second, improving airports requires collaboration of the entire aviation community, including the airlines that use airport facilities.

First, unlike many other airports around the world, U.S. airports are publically-owned facilities operated by local governments that receive funding from a mix of sources, primarily user fees paid by travelers when they purchase their airline ticket. To further compound the issue, the U.S. Congress determines how much a local airport is allowed to collect and how the money can be spent.  The cap on the most common source of airport funding – known as the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) user fee – has not been increased since 2000.  Given the rate of inflation, the PFC’s purchasing power continues to erode every day.  Right now, the PFC is only able to buy half of what it could in 2000.  That’s why we think it’s time to increase the PFC and allow it to adjust with the rate of inflation.

Second, airports are actually communities comprised of many stakeholders, and any progress we seek must be a collaborative effort.  Most notably, the airlines have an important role to play in helping airport directors improve the competitiveness of U.S. airports in the global market.  The airlines are essential partners in the future of our aviation system, but the airlines must begin working proactively with Congress and aviation stakeholders to find commonsense solutions that modernize the way we finance and improve U.S. airports.

Airports are in the business of keeping the travelling public safe and secure, improving the travelling experience, and working with aviation stakeholders to find solutions to the challenges that keep U.S. airports off the global top 100 airports list.

Modernizing the way we finance airport improvement projects is the best way for airports to meet the needs of the 21st century traveling public. The investments we make today will drive growth into the future, because we know the economic impact of airports extends far beyond the runway.  With more than 700 million passengers and 27 million metric tons of cargo traveling in and out of the United States via air each year, airports make a tremendous contribution to U.S. GDP—more than $1.2 trillion—and employ more than 1.3 million people.

The need is clear: U.S. airports expect the number of domestic passengers alone to surpass one billion enplanements within the next 15 years, and their greatest challenge is obtaining the financial resources that will allow them to successfully tackle these infrastructure needs.  Right now, there are already more than $71 billion in infrastructure improvements needed by 2017 to meet projections in both passenger and cargo activity, according to the most recent survey by Airports Council International-North America.

We must also realize the inconveniences U.S. airport travelers experience are beyond the control of the airport.  Travelers wait too long to get through security and customs screening lines.  That’s why we continue to work with U.S. government agencies and urge them to increase efficiency with improved technology and more staff to alleviate the logjam travelers face.

We have a limited window in which to act, and I encourage air travelers to get involved.  In just under 500 days, the U.S. Congress will be required to renew – and improve – the policies that govern airport infrastructure within the United States.

It will take more than just the voices of airport officials to make the improvements travelers demand. If you agree with Mr. Fingleton that we should be serious about our airports, everyone must work together toward a serious solution.  We must modernize federal funding policies so our nation’s airports can compete on equitable financial footing with the rest of the world.  Failing to upgrade how we fund airports—our large, medium, and small hubs—will only shortchange our nation’s world-class aviation system and future economic competitiveness.