In late 2011 the Ottawa International Airport Authority proposed changing landing fees for light aircraft in an attempt to recover money spent on the north field, the general aviation part of the airport.
A meeting was held between the airport authority and the two flying schools, Ottawa Flying Club and Ottawa Aviation Services, with Kevin Psutka from COPA representing itinerant aircraft. The current fee structure has seen visiting aircraft charged a $30 landing fee, while private and school aircraft are charged a $30 per month and $100 per month flat-rate basing fee respectively. The airport authority claims that the non-capital operations and maintenance costs for the the north field are $59 per landing and that the airline operations at Ottawa are subsidizing GA. Airport authority CEO Paul Benoit explains, "The increase, the first in 10 years is not related to the 2 million plus cost of resurfacing 04/22, that was paid thru our AIF which the North Field does not in any way contribute to. Rent and PILT which the Government assesses one entire campus is not charged to North Field, the increase does not cover full O & M cost of the North Field, the commercial operation subsidizes all of those costs."
The airport authority proposed a flat $20 landing fee for all aircraft landings, (with touch-and-goes exempted) to replace the monthly school and private aircraft basing fees and visiting aircraft landing fee. On 9 November 2011 the airport authority asked the schools and COPA to provide alternate proposals to the airport authority's concept by the end of January 2012.
The airport authority's proposal would lower the cost for visiting aircraft, but dramatically raise it for Ottawa-based private and school aircraft. By COPA's estimates under the airport authority's proposal school costs would rise about 15% per flight. According to COPA this "will significantly affect their business". While the lowering of the visiting aircraft fee from $30 to $20 sounds attractive, in fact visiting aircraft have largely already abandoned CYOW due to the high fees and this reduced fee is still too high to lure their business back. Psutka explains, "for the transient private aircraft owner, the combination of landing fees and NAVCAN departure fee was already keeping most away from the airport so increasing landing fees from their current levels would only further discourage private transient aircraft from using the airport...it is a proven fact that most private aircraft owners will make decisions to avoid an airport when the landing fee is more than $10."
Airport Authority CEO Benoit stated on 23 February 2012, "We have reached out several times to work with the North Field tenants to get input on how to mitigate the costs of the North Field, we have had no response, we are still ready the receive any and all concrete proposals that would mitigate or eliminate this increase." In response to the request for alternatives COPA responded, but neither of the two schools did before the airport authority's final fee announcement deadline of 1 March 2012 and so, given the lack of input by those most affected, the airport authority has announced it will implement the $20 landing fee on 1 May 2012, having given the required 60 day notice.
Psutka's response to the airport authority underlines the key issues:
"Regarding private aircraft that are parked at the north field, most are doing so under arrangements at either OAS or OFC, so I said that I would leave it to OAS and OFC to develop a proposal for fees that would minimize the impact on those users."
"I also stated at the meeting that the key to increasing revenue from the north field, rather than focusing on landing fees, is to encourage aviation businesses to locate and thrive there so that income from rents and other income sources could reduce the need to increase landing fees. This has been COPA's long-standing position."
"Finally, I mentioned that there should be some accounting for the income that the airport realizes from the sale and or lease of property at the north field for non-aviation uses. If this income was taken into account, the costs attributed to the north field could to a large extent be countered by what I can only imagine is a significant source of revenue for the airport, thereby reducing the perceived need to increase landing fees."
"I trust that this summary of COPA's key points will serve as our proposal for dealing with your cost issues and help you conclude that if you want private aircraft to use the facility, increasing landing fees will not accomplish this goal."
With this fee now a "done-deal" for implementation on 1 May 2012, Psutka indicated that he believes that this new fee will result in reduced overall income to the airport authority, not increased income as aircraft and business leave the airport. He stated "The market will now decide whether or not the fee is acceptable."