Montréal-Trudeau Airport flying high

Posted: 4 February 2008 | James Cherry, President and Chief Executive Officer, Aéroports de Montréal | No comments yet

When the Airbus A380, the world’s largest jumbo jet, made its first trip to North America with passengers on board during a route verification flight from Paris last November, it was no surprise that its first stop – and only Canadian visit – was Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (YUL). The airport has all the facilities required to accommodate the giant wide-body aircraft, including double-deck loading bridges and widened taxiways specially completed for the aircraft in 2006.

When the Airbus A380, the world’s largest jumbo jet, made its first trip to North America with passengers on board during a route verification flight from Paris last November, it was no surprise that its first stop – and only Canadian visit – was Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (YUL). The airport has all the facilities required to accommodate the giant wide-body aircraft, including double-deck loading bridges and widened taxiways specially completed for the aircraft in 2006.

Montréal–Trudeau has been a world-class gateway for North America and Europe for more than 60 years and the arrival of the A380 only further underscores its growing status as an international transportation hub. Following a major modernisation and expansion program, the airport ranks among the worlds best in terms of connectivity, user-friendliness and low operating costs.

Just 20 minutes by road from the heart of Greater Montréal, Montréal-Trudeau is the main international airport in Canada east of the Great Lakes and close to huge population centres in the northeastern United States. It is also a major economic force in the Greater Montréal area (pop. 3.7 million), creating or maintaining more than 25,000 direct jobs at the airport and at companies operating on the airport site.

Currently handling some 12 million passengers a year and offering some of the most competitive landing fees in North America, Montréal-Trudeau is served by 40 airlines, including almost all of North America’s and Europe’s major airlines and is linked by non-stop services to more than 120 destinations in Canada, the US and internationally.

Capacity doubled

The airport’s more than $700 million CDN modernisation and expansion program, launched at the turn of the millennium by airport authority Aéroports de Montréal (ADM), has doubled Montréal-Trudeau’s terminal capacity and introduced a host of cutting-edge technologies and innovative services to ensure a secure, flexible and seamless processing of passengers and flights.

The upgrade programme, which at its peak was the biggest construction project in Montréal, has added two new, state-of-the-art, passenger jetties for US and international flights, a spacious International Arrivals Complex including Canadian Customs and fully-automated check-in and baggage handling facilities. These and other improvements have leveraged high-tech solutions to facilitate the processing of passengers and their luggage, while meeting stringent security requirements imposed since 9/11.

The airport is currently working on further improvements, including a brand-new, $250 million transborder departures hall scheduled for completion within the next year. This new section will give easier access to the current 21 US boarding gates and will offer a dozen security checkpoints, which doubles the current number. It will also offer more US Customs and Immigration pre-clearance booths and significantly expand waiting areas to allow for the processing of 429 passengers an hour vs. 185 today. Moreover, the number of check-in counters will be increased to 124 from 77, including 44 self-serve booths, and baggage processing capacity will be doubled to some 1,400 pieces an hour.

But that’s not all. Montréal-Trudeau’s new departures hall will also offer airport passengers nearly 1,500 m2 of additional retail space, including a large duty free store, two floors of office space for air carriers, nearly 500 new underground parking spaces and the shell of a rapid link train station to downtown Montréal.

Ease of service

Fluidity of service in all facets of Montréal-Trudeau’s operations has been a major area of focus throughout the airport’s modernisation and expansion program. The transborder jetty for US flights and spacious international jetty, for example, have been carefully laid out to ensure passengers can make their way through the airport with ease. They feature practical links, easy walking distances to and from boarding gates, wide corridors, moving walkways, helpful signage and information kiosks.

The stunning International Arrivals Complex, featuring an 11-metre-high cathedral ceiling, allows for a continuous flow of passengers towards 26 customs and immigration booths before directing them to a convenient baggage-claim area below.

Innovative swing gates have also been installed that can be configured for three types of traffic (e.g. domestic/international/transborder) and provide increased operating flexibility for handling daily peak periods.

Quick aircraft turnaround

Montréal-Trudeau’s three runways have also been upgraded and renovated, with a rebuilt apron and integrated refuelling system. With a capacity of more than 400,000 movements a year, the runway system can accommodate all types of aircraft. Head-of-stand service roads provide efficient and safe access to aircraft and are complemented by vast ground-level operating support areas for quick turnaround.

The airport also features a state-of-the-art central de-icing facility, that uses products which perform exceptionally well with regard to environmental practices. A new Instrument Landing Systems (ILS), as well as the airport’s traffic control tower, are recognised as among the most modern in the world.

Sustainable development

As part of its redevelopment project, Montréal-Trudeau completed a retrofit of its electromechanical infrastructure that has allowed the facility to reduce energy consumption by more than 50% compared with 1995-96. The project, a novel integration of distribution systems, stands out because of its large scale and effective use of technology. These range from the addition of a modern computer driven temperature control system, to modifications to the chilled water circulation system and the existing dual-duct system. Installing the temperature control system has reduced the airport’s energy consumption expenses by 20%. The Montréal-Trudeau retrofit programme was recognised as a finalist in Natural Resources Canada’s Energy Efficiency Awards.

Technology: safe and secure

Montréal-Trudeau is also a world leader in using advanced technologies to balance the need for increased security and efficient passenger flow at every step of the check-in and boarding experience.

A fully automated outbound baggage-handling system, incorporating Explosive Detection Systems (EDS), offers rapid transfer times and improved tracking and reliability. Since US-bound passengers must clear customs prior to their flight at Montréal-Trudeau, two baggage systems have been installed: one for transborder and one for domestic/international flights.

The domestic/international baggage system features a rapid-moving conveyor belt along with an innovative tilt tray system. This handles baggage piece-by-piece and drops them into a chute corresponding to the appropriate flight. This system vastly increases handling capacity, with a transfer time of as little as seven minutes. The system for US-bound baggage uses high-tech conveyor belts after the baggage is dropped off at a central point subsequent to clearing customs.

Pre-approved and low-risk frequent flyers can clear Canadian customs and immigration literally in the blink of an eye using the CANPASS Air iris-recognition system. The NEXUS system also employs iris-scanning technology and self-service kiosks, allowing members to quickly pass through U.S. customs and immigration before boarding US-bound flights or when arriving in Canada.

Montréal-Trudeau’s innovative AéroCheck common-use self-service kiosks (CUSSK) allow passengers to instantly select their own seats and obtain boarding passes and baggage tags, reducing line-ups and delays. By sharing infrastructure and space, the CUSSK concept enables the airport and air carriers to increase capacity while reducing their operating costs. The system also significantly reduces queuing and eliminates bottlenecks caused by baggage handling at traditional check-in counters, leading to better service for passengers.

Further leveraging technologies, ADM, in conjunction with Air Canada and wireless-solutions provider LIPSO Inc., is currently testing a mobile check-in system that uses bar-code technology. Users can receive their boarding pass in encrypted fashion on a mobile device prior to reaching the airport. When they arrive, they can simply scan it to obtain the departure gate.

Enhanced customer services

High-quality services, ranging from retail to parking, are taking on increasing importance for attracting and maintaining customers in today’s competitive global airport market. This is especially true in Canada, where most airports are operated by not-for-profit, self-financing airport authorities. Revenues generated by these services are especially critical for supporting ongoing operations and funding improvement projects.

With this in mind, Montréal-Trudeau has introduced a wide range of new customer services, including significantly expanded retail and food services; convenient parking incorporating the latest technologies; a groundbreaking airport television network; and an integrated communications solution featuring WiFi, IP telephony and digital signage.

Facilitating ground access, Montréal-Trudeau has significantly expanded its parking facilities and included automatic entry and exit with the use of credit cards and valet services. An upgrade of a major highway interchange near the airport and a planned rapid rail link with the downtown core will further improve access to the airport in the coming years. In October 2007, the rail link project took a major step forward when contracts were awarded for studies related to the new service.

In partnership with Astral Media, one of the leading outdoor advertising companies in Canada, ADM, has also launched a new television network at Montréal-Trudeau. The network broadcasts unique content, focusing mainly on entertainment and information, via 80 flat screen monitors in the waiting area of the transborder, international and domestic jetties. It will reach an estimated 5 million captive travellers each year in departure lounges and offer an entirely new source of revenues for ADM.

As a result of the expansion project, Montréal-Trudeau now features more than 70 shops, restaurants and services under the “L’AéroShopping” banner. Travellers can eat, relax or buy newspapers, souvenirs, fashion accessories and a variety of other “Très Montréal” products in every area of the terminal – international, transborder, domestic and public. Those departing for the U.S. and international destinations can also visit two duty-free shops, including one of Canada’s largest outlets. Three health spas are available in addition to several VIP lounges and convenient foreign exchange counters.

A high-end, 275-room Marriott hotel is scheduled to open at Montréal-Trudeau at the end of 2008, featuring a pool, gymnasium, business centre, restaurants and conference rooms. The new transborder departures hall will occupy the first two floors of the building, and the shell for the planned Montréal-Trudeau railway station will be located beneath the hotel. The structure will also house the head office of ADM, currently situated in downtown Montréal.

ADM is constantly exploring new avenues to improve Montréal–Trudeau’s airport facilities and services in response to the evolving needs of the travelling public. Its goal is to provide airlines and their customers with a level of service that is beyond compare.

Thanks to a well-planned investment and operations strategy based on innovation, continuous improvement and superior service levels, it is continuing to set the pace for airports of the 21st century.

About the author

James Cherry is a Montréal native and graduate of McGill University. He is a chartered accountant who has over 25 years of experience in general management, project management and financial management in the International Aerospace, Defence and Rail sectors.

Over this period he has worked in senior executive positions with Bombardier Inc., Oerlikon Aerospace Inc., CAE Inc. and ALSTOM Canada Inc.

He joined Aéroports de Montréal as President and Chief Executive Officer in June 2001, and is a member of the Board of Directors of Aéroports de Montréal. He is Chairman of the Board of the Canadian Airports Council, Chairman of the Airports Council International World and a member of the Executive Committee of Airports Council International-North America. He is also Chairman of St. Mary’s Hospital Foundation and a member of the Board of Directors of Montréal International, Concordia University and Centraide.

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