Sammy Hudes © Calgary Herald

Calgary’s airport will take on a new look that better reflects the city, its history and culture, president and CEO Bob Sartor vowed on Thursday.

Speaking at the annual general meeting of the Calgary Airport Authority, the not-for-profit corporation that runs both Calgary International Airport and Springbank Airport, Sartor provided an update on challenges and achievements during his first year in the airport’s top job, a post he’s held since January 2017.

He also provided a glimpse into plans that he hopes will enhance the experience for travellers.

Sartor pointed to four airports — in Vancouver, Singapore, Hamburg and Portland — that each tell the stories of their cities through unique displays and retail options.

“We can take elements of this and elements of that and make it uniquely Calgarian,” Sartor said.

He said he wants to highlight Calgary’s neighbourhoods, festivals and cultural scene, as well as southern Alberta’s natural wonder and roots, throughout the 2,100-hectare airport’s halls.

“When people come here, even if they’re going to Banff, we need to show them our community. We need to show them Calgary,” Sartor said. “So one of the things we’re going to do in the various concourses is tell the story of our neighbourhoods, our city.”

While the new international terminal, which opened in October 2016, has seen positive feedback when it comes to retail, the domestic terminal will undergo a three-year revamp beginning in the second half of 2018.

“We are now looking to completely refresh our domestic terminal, all of our food and beverage, retail concepts, over the next several years as leases come due,” said Sartor, adding he wants new retail outlets to “fit with everything else we’re doing to excite and inspire customers.”

The airport saw 16.3 million passengers pass through it last year, a 3.8 per cent bump that Sartor attributed to added U.S. and other international flights, made possible by the new terminal.

U.S. traffic was up 6.1 per cent, while there was an 8.4 per cent increase to other international destinations.

But the airport’s expansion also brought some headaches last year, as travellers bemoaned long walks between connections and inadequate seating.

Sartor, the former chief executive of Calgary’s Big Rock Brewery, said he’s made an effort to address those concerns.

“When I took the reins of the airport in January of 2017, we had a — I won’t say a firestorm — but just a steady diet of negative criticism of us in the media about the size of the airport,” he said.

“If you want an international (terminal), if you want to grow, you’re going to have to grow the size of your airport. There’s not much we can do about that. But some things we could. We didn’t have enough, if any, water in the international terminal that was free and our seating at the gates was not what it needed to be. So we’ve improved that as much as we possibly could and that seems to have subsided.”

An Ipsos Reid poll of southern Albertans showed that 96 per cent of local travellers held a positive impression of the airport following the upgrades, he said.

“That doesn’t mean we rest on our laurels,” said Sartor. “We know that we have tons of opportunities to improve customer service and customer experience.”

This piece featuring our Action Calgary Partner, The Calgary Airport Authority, was published in the Calgary Herald on April 30, 2018.

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