Conversation with Lloyd McCoomb
President & CEO, GTAA (Greater Toronto Airports Authority)

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LQ: Given the state of the aviation industry, what is the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) doing to help airlines?

Lloyd McCoomb: We’re very aware of the pressures that the rapid escalation in fuel prices has caused in the industry. This is hitting both transportation and the underpinning economy, which generates demand for the service that we’re providing—so it’s a double hit in our particular case. We’re sensitive to that; our response is to do everything we possibly can to assist the industry. In particular, in Toronto’s case, we can take some pride in the fact that in the past few months we have announced a 25 percent reduction in air cargo landing fees. That speaks volumes, in real terms, about how we in this airport are responding to challenges faced in the industry.

LQ: What innovative programs or initiatives have the GTAA introduced at Toronto Pearson?

Lloyd McCoomb: We have, over the course of the past decade at Pearson, been heavily engaged in rebuilding the airport, in total, overtop of itself. A major component of that has been rebuilding our cargo infrastructure, a large part of which was displaced by other development initiatives in the airport. In our infield area, between the major runways, we have put a beautiful new cargo village. Air Canada has a major piece of that in a fully automated cargo building, but there are wonderful cargo facilities available for the other carriers as well.
We have also acquired land. Specifically, when the Boeing Company sold their manufacturing facility, we acquired the land it was on, and that represents a wonderful reserve in support of the industry as it continues to mature. This is the number one aviation cargo entry point for not only this region but also the whole country.

LQ: How can you grow the cargo/shipping business at Toronto Pearson?

Lloyd McCoomb: There are a number of initiatives that we’re exploring. One of the crucial elements that has been an inhibiting factor in cargo here for a long time has been the problem of aircraft noise. The noise situation has improved dramatically year after year, and this has helped cargo significantly.
The most significant issue was getting these wonderful facilities in place. Second was getting our prices in line—fee reductions—but we are very much open for business and exploring any and all opportunities. We invite anyone interested in this sector to contact us in terms of further developing this number one cargo entry point for this country. Given the strategic location of this airport, within a kilometer of the demographic centre of the Golden Horseshoe—with six million people and all the attendant industries within reach—we have some substantial advantages, including highways 401, 427, 407, 410—all major freeways. We are really well positioned to grow that part of the business, and intend to do so.

LQ: What about competition from other airports? Is the GTAA concerned? What can you do to become more competitive?

Lloyd McCoomb: Competition is good. We welcome the challenge that competition brings—it keeps us all sharp. Fee reductions are an obvious response to the competition that we face. Certainly Hamilton Airport has made it a strategic focus to develop their cargo operation and has achieved some success in that vein. Probably the big competitors in many respects are Chicago and New York, where a lot of cargo is presently being trucked. So we feel that, yes, there’s competition, but the nature of that competition also opens up some substantial opportunities. We think there are great opportunities to grow.
In order to become more competitive, we have put in place second-to-none facilities. We have ample airside capacity at long last; we have five runways and approval for a sixth; we have put in place fantastic snow-clearing operations that ensure this airport stays fully functional and efficient during the worst of winter weather. Those assets are our great competitive edge, combined with the investment in infrastructure and cargo warehousing facilities themselves. We’re open for business and interested in any and all suggestions that anyone in the industry might have to ensure that this airport is providing the cargo access required for the vibrant economy of this region.

LQ: How does Toronto distinguish itself from its competitors through its facilities?

Lloyd McCoomb: Our incredibly attractive geographic location, situated as we are in the center of one of the most important industrial regions in North America. So there’s a natural advantage, and we’ve put in place very efficient facilities. And now we’re addressing cost concerns, which will undoubtedly help give us a competitive advantage.
The strategic focus of the organization has listed the issue of becoming a gateway for passengers and cargo as a real focal point; our board of directors and management have focused on this. There’s also a continued effort to keep pushing the costs down. A study is underway to review our price structure and ensure that it’s as supportive and fair as it can possibly be.
Now that these new world-class cargo facilities are in place, we are focusing our efforts on operation and exploitation marketing of the facilities. To that end, one of the things we’ve done is create a business development and marketing division, with a vice president who reports directly to me. We’re putting our money and efforts where our mouth is, by creating, staffing and supporting a division that is in place to serve our cargo customers to the best of our ability.

LQ: Can you outline some of the infrastructure improvements that you’ve introduced at Toronto Pearson?
Lloyd McCoomb: The redevelopment program that we undertook meant that the airport was a massive construction site for 10 years. A new runway, a new terminal, renovations to Terminal 3, the elimination of obsolete buildings and elimination of a cargo complex that was inefficient—these are all examples of the change that occurred at our airport. What we’ve built is an airport that is modern, safe and welcoming, and perhaps most important, it efficiently offers capacity for more passengers, more cargo and more business. The Toronto Pearson of today is the solid infrastructure that this community deserves and has been demanding for years.

LQ: What about generating additional or new business?

Lloyd McCoomb: Air service marketing is a very real focus for us. With the right facilities in place, we can effectively market Toronto to air carriers as a facility that provides modern, efficient, safe and secure services. In an increasingly competitive airport market, this is crucial and serves to ensure a more competitive Toronto. We are speaking with airlines constantly to sell Toronto and to sell the airport. This is a large market, and the business demands of the region have prompted us to aggressively court airlines.

LQ: Your recent announcement of landing-fee reductions for all-cargo aircraft is interesting. What do you expect to come of that?

Lloyd McCoomb: The impact of this change should not be taken lightly. More than 500,000 tonnes of cargo moved through Toronto Pearson last year—more than double the number-two airport. In fact, almost half of Canada’s air cargo moves through Toronto Pearson. There is a market here, created by the businesses of the region. Our customers are demanding just-in-time deliveries around the clock. The shippers want to meet that demand, and the airport is part of the solution to keeping businesses running. I am also very pleased to report that Lufthansa Cargo started operating a Toronto-Frankfurt route early in September. Additional services can only help to serve the needs of the community. Particularly when a leading airline shows renewed interest in our facilities, our work is justified and the customers benefit in the form of additional choice.

LQ: What else can you tell us about meeting the demands of your customers?

Lloyd McCoomb: The airport authority is here to work with the business community in making the airport a very real foundation of the region’s success. We are willing to help out where we can. The GTAA is dedicated to providing the air services that this region demands, in the form of both cargo and passenger connectivity around the world.

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