Category Archives: Airport management

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.

ACI-NA Launches Edge4Vets at Airports Program

by Kevin M. Burke
ACI-NA President and CEO

This Memorial Day, ACI-NA celebrates the service members who have dedicated their lives to honoring and protecting the United States of America. In my mind, there is no better way to say thank you than to provide veterans with the skills and access necessary to make the transition to the civilian work force.

That’s why I am thrilled to announce the launch of our Edge4Vets at Airports program which aims to translate returning veterans’ military aviation skills to the civilian airport industry. This program, run through Fordham University’s Human Resiliency Institute and funded by the Walmart Foundation through the Syracuse University Institute for Veterans and Military Families, will begin phase I in New York at JFK and LaGuardia airports. The hope is that this pilot effort will expand across our ACI-NA network to member airports in the United States.

On May 21 Edge4Vets and ACI-NA officially announced this partnership at JFKIAT, and also hosted an informal ‘teach-in’ with young veterans looking to get into the civilian aviation industry and older aviation veterans who have been working the civilian side for many years (pictured at left). The event boasted 50 participants, including 25 veterans from a half-dozen schools and 25 airport mentors from Delta, American Airlines, JetBlue and Hudson Group.

For me, the ‘teach-in’ solidified the genuine interest returning service members have about working in our industry and affirms my commitment, as a CEO of a leading association in one of the United States’ top industries, to make sure we reach out to veterans about the opportunities in U.S. aviation.

Edge4Vets at Airports will be working with ACI-NA’s Human Resources Committee to train returning service members in four separate workshops, all of which will take place at airports to maximize veterans’ exposure to the facilities and employees. While we are just in the initial stages, the goal is to expand to member airports around the country, using our HR network and capitalizing on the Edge4Vets program infrastructure.

We’re fortunate that airports represent a wide variety of skills and career opportunities that match well to the types of training and skills service members already possess, and ACI-NA is proud to take this next step with this Edge4Vets at Airports program. As the nation’s military commitments return to peacetime readiness and more veterans are looking to return to civilian life, we are preparing to welcome our returning heroes with exciting career opportunities.

Edge4Vets at Airports is led by its founder, Tom Murphy, director of the Human Resiliency Institute at Fordham University. The Walmart Foundation, through Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families, provided the grant to develop the plan for Edge4Vets at Airports. Edge4Vets will conduct a campaign to raise funds to implement the plan as a pilot in New York and then expand the program nationally to airports across the U.S. Edge4Vets will be working with Goodwill Industries “Operation: Good Jobs” program on this project.

ACI-NA Puts Airport Priorities at Forefront in Infrastructure Week

Note: This blog was originally published on May 15 in Aviation Daily.

By Kevin M. Burke
Since joining Airports Council International – North America in January as its new President and CEO, I have spent the last few months meeting with airport stakeholders and policy makers all around North America.  I went into this listening tour with my ears and mind open about the current and future challenges facing airports and their role in supporting our economy.

One of the needs I routinely heard – and one of my main goals for ACI-NA – comes back to the need to modernize infrastructure and our ability to advance airport priorities through the use of broad coalitions.  As a lifelong advocate, I know that participating in coalitions provides voices with a greater platform to share their unique perspective within a context that can spur action.

This week marks the second annual “Infrastructure Week,” a week-long celebration of the vast network that supports – and moves – the U.S. economy.  Endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Brookings Institute, and others including President Barack Obama, Infrastructure Week provides those in the transportation sector with a valuable opportunity to educate Congress and the American public about the important role infrastructure plays in creating U.S. jobs and growing our economy.

The aviation community is well aware that surface transportation currently is in the legislative spotlight.  But that doesn’t mean aviation infrastructure issues need to take a back seat this week.  In fact, now is an ideal opportunity to truly start gathering momentum ahead of next year’s Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization.

During Infrastructure Week 2014, we at ACI-NA will be working across the infrastructure and transportation community to share the industry’s important perspective.  Our baseline message is simple and clear: airports are a fundamental component of our nation’s transportation infrastructure.

With more than 700 million passengers and 27 million metric tons of cargo traveling in and out of the United States through an airport each year, airports make a tremendous contribution to U.S. GDP—more than $1.2 trillion—and employ more than 1.2 million people.  Those are not numbers policy makers can ignore, and we at ACI-NA will not let them.

In order to ensure that our airports and commercial aviation sector continue to lead the world, we need to get serious about investing in our future.  That is exactly why ACI-NA is proud to participate in Infrastructure Week 2014.

Last year, we conducted a broad survey across North American airports to assess the current and future needs of airports as they are called upon to meet increases in passenger and cargo traffic.  We were able to identify $71.3 billion in infrastructure improvements needed by 2017 to meet strong growth projections in both passenger and cargo activity and the need to update aging infrastructure.  U.S. airports expect the number of domestic passengers alone to surpass one billion enplanements within the next 15 years, and their greatest challenge currently is obtaining the financial resources that will allow them to successfully tackle these infrastructure needs.

Airports need additional funding, and the primary source of this funding—particularly for our large hub airports—is the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC).  The PFC’s maximum of $4.50 per segment, however, has not been raised since 2000, which has reduced its purchasing power by roughly half.  To put it another way: the longer the PFC’s purchasing power continues to be stalled the more expensive necessary capital improvement projects become.

The investment we make in airports will help further bolster our economy by bringing growth to other sectors, including travel, tourism, and global commerce.  If we allow U.S. infrastructure to continue to age without new investment, we will fall behind.  Any lag in our economic growth because of an outdated infrastructure jeopardizes our competitiveness in the global market.

The world is growing more global each day.  In an increasingly competitive global market, we must be able to successfully meet capacity demands with the safe, efficient, and modern facilities that passengers and cargo shippers expect.  Modernizing the way we finance airport improvement projects is essential for airports to meet these needs, all while creating U.S. jobs and growing our economy.  I look forward to working with my transportation colleagues to make that happen.