Ottawa Macdonald–Cartier International Airport

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Ottawa Macdonald–Cartier International Airport

Aéroport international Macdonald-Cartier d'Ottawa
Ottawa Airport Logo.svg
Ottawa Airport.jpg
Airport typePublic
OwnerTransport Canada[1]
OperatorOttawa Macdonald–Cartier International Airport Authority
Focus city for
Time zoneEST (UTC−05:00)
 • Summer (DST)EDT (UTC−04:00)
Elevation AMSL377 ft / 115 m
Coordinates45°19′21″N 075°40′02″W / 45.32250°N 75.66722°W / 45.32250; -75.66722Coordinates: 45°19′21″N 075°40′02″W / 45.32250°N 75.66722°W / 45.32250; -75.66722
CYOW is located in Ottawa
Location in Ottawa
CYOW is located in Ontario
CYOW (Ontario)
CYOW is located in Canada
CYOW (Canada)
Direction Length Surface
ft m
04/22 3,300 1,006 Asphalt
07/25 8,000 2,438 Asphalt
14/32 10,005 3,050 Asphalt
Statistics (2019)
Aircraft movements134,339
Number of Passengers5,106,487
Sources: Canada Flight Supplement[2]
Environment Canada[3]
Movements from Statistics Canada[4]
Passenger statistics from Ottawa Airport.[5]

Ottawa/Macdonald–Cartier International Airport or Macdonald–Cartier International Airport (French: L'aéroport international Macdonald-Cartier), (IATA: YOW, ICAO: CYOW) in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, is an international airport named after the Canadian statesmen and two of the "founding fathers of Canada", Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir George-Étienne Cartier. Located in the south end of the city, 5.5 nautical miles (10.2 km; 6.3 mi) south of downtown Ottawa, it is Canada's sixth-busiest airport, Ontario's second-busiest airport by airline passenger traffic, and Canada's sixth-busiest by aircraft movements, with 5,110,801 passengers and 150,815 aircraft movements in 2018.[4][5] The airport was the home base for First Air. The airport is classified as an airport of entry by Nav Canada, and is staffed by the Canada Border Services Agency. The airport is one of eight Canadian airports that have United States border preclearance facilities. The airport used to be a military base known as CFB Ottawa South/CFB Uplands. Although it is no longer a Canadian Forces Base, it is still home to the Royal Canadian Air Force's 412 Transport Squadron, which provides air transport for Canadian and foreign government officials.


Lt. J. Thad Johnson

On July 2, 1927, twelve P-1 airplanes under command of Major Thomas G. Lanphier, Air Corps, proceeded from Selfridge Field to Ottawa, acting as Special Escort for Colonel Charles Lindbergh, who was to attend at the opening of the Dominion Jubilee. First Lieutenant J. Thad Johnson, Air Corps, commanding 27th Pursuit Squadron, was killed in an unsuccessful parachute jump after a collision with another plane of formation in demonstration on arrival over Ottawa. There is now a street leading to the airport industrial section named after the aviator.[6]

The airport was opened at Uplands on a high plateau (then) south of Ottawa by the Ottawa Flying Club, which still operates from the field. During World War II, when it was known as Uplands, the airport hosted No. 2 Service Flying Training School for the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, providing advanced pilot training in Harvard and Yale aircraft.

In 1950, to allow for a southward expansion of the airport, the nearby farming community of Bowesville, settled from 1821, was expropriated. The last residents left and the village school was torn down in 1951. The current main airport terminal now stands on the site of the crossroads at the centre of the village. The road to the south of the airport still bears the name "Bowesville Road".[7]

During the 1950s, while the airport was still named Uplands and a joint-use civilian/military field, it was the busiest airport in Canada by takeoffs and landings, reaching a peak of 307,079 aircraft movements in 1959,[8] nearly double its current traffic. At the time, the airport had scheduled airline flights by Trans-Canada Air Lines (Toronto, Montreal, and Val-d'Or), Trans Air (Churchill), and Eastern Air Lines (New York via Syracuse and Washington via Montreal).[8] With the arrival of civilian jet travel, the Canadian government built a new field south of the original one, with two much longer runways and a new terminal building designed to handle up to 900,000 passengers/year. The terminal building had been scheduled to open in 1959, but during the opening ceremonies, a United States Air Force F-104 Starfighter went supersonic during a low pass over the airport, and the resultant sonic boom shattered most of the glass in the airport (including the entire north wall) and damaged ceiling tiles, door and window frames, and even structural beams.[9] As a result, the opening was delayed until April 1960. The original terminal building and Trans-Canada Airways/DOT hangar continued in private use on the airport's north field until the Fall 2011 when it was demolished.

The airport was renamed "Ottawa International Airport" in 1964. It became "Ottawa Macdonald–Cartier International Airport" in 1993.

In 2017, the Canadian Border Services Agency started to use facial recognition technology to process incoming international travellers. All international passengers are directed to Primary Inspection Kiosks before seeing a Border Services Officer and are no longer required to fill out a declaration card.[10]

Facility layout

Diagram of the Ottawa airport (prior to 2005)

The airport consists of two distinct airfields connected by a taxiway. The smaller north field, originally referred to as Uplands, was founded by the Ottawa Flying Club in the late 1920s and then used by Trans-Canada Air Lines, the predecessor of Air Canada. This was the area primarily used by No. 2 Service Flying Training School. Several hangars were constructed during World War II, but were all demolished by the early 2000s.

The north field is still popular for general aviation, although only one of its runways, 04/22, is still in use. There are a number of aircraft component repair facilities located within the same grouping of buildings as the Ottawa Flying Club.

The south field consists of the two longer runways, 07/25 and 14/32, designed for jet airliners. The public passenger terminal is tucked into the north side of the intersection of the two runways, while the two general aviation FBOs for the south field are nearer to the threshold of runway 25. Customs services for private aircraft are available at the two fixed-base operators (FBO), Shell Aerocentre and Skyservice Business Aviation, on the south field. There are also a number of aviation component repair facilities on airport grounds, mostly around the Skyservice complex. The Government of Canada operates a number of hangars, including the Canada Reception Centre, which is used to greet visiting dignitaries. The National Research Council operates two facilities on the north side of the grounds, including two wind tunnels: One of which has supersonic capabilities, and the other 9m diameter, being the largest in Canada. Transport Canada operates two facilities on airport grounds, one which houses training equipment, including flight simulators, and a hangar for maintenance and storage of government owned aircraft.


At the turn of the millennium, the Ottawa Airport Authority announced plans to build a second, adjacent terminal to meet the demands of increased traffic. The terminal was built ahead of schedule and opened on October 12, 2003. The terminal building now handles all airline passenger traffic. A section of the 1960 terminal, which was connected to the new terminal by an enclosed bridge, was still used at peak times of the day when extra gate space is needed, and it also handled most domestic prop flights. Funding for the terminal construction was collected from the parking meters outside the terminal beginning in January 1997, when rates were hiked to cover the costs of a new terminal building.

The old terminal and tower were built in 1960 was a modernist International style designed by architects James Strutt, William Gilleland and Transport Canada. They had been heavily renovated and modernized in 1985–87, which included the removal of a seating area containing personal television screens which would provide 15 minutes of VHF TV channels for 25 cents, as well as an open ceiling design. It was demolished in 2008 to make way for Phase II of the new terminal.

The airport's board of directors approved a further expansion of the airport's passenger terminal on April 4, 2006. The extension of the new terminal was built in phases by Brisbin Brook Benyon and Architectura.[11] Phase II, the next phase of the expansion program opened March 13, 2008. This addition contains over 7,000 m2 (75,000 sq ft) of space and adds an additional twelve gates and seven jetways. The 1960 terminal was designed by Gilleland and Strutt and by Transport Canada architect W.A. Ramsay[11] and renovations by Murray and Murray, Griffiths and Rankin from 1984 to 1987. It closed on March 13, 2008, and has been demolished and by the end of 2008 its former location was paved over to provide room for more gates and jetways.

Interior design

The terminal's design focuses on creating a calm and easy travel experience for passengers but also honours aspects of the region through the display of various art by commissioned Canadian artists. A soothing water feature representing the meeting of the region's three rivers runs throughout the terminal. Copper and limestone finishes are visible throughout, representative of the capital's Parliament Buildings. Other Canadian features include an inukshuk commissioned and sponsored by First Air, and a rare traditional birch bark canoe built by the master craftsman and Algonquin leader who created an identical one for the late Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau.[12] The airport features a large-scale carved glass sculpture by Canadian glass artist, Warren Carther.

Airlines and destinations

Macdonald–Cartier Airport is part of Canada's busiest air corridor between Ottawa, Montreal, and Toronto, which is commonly referred to as the Eastern Triangle.[13] The airport is also a gateway for flights to the eastern Arctic via Iqaluit. While Ottawa's airport serves many major North American airlines and has flights to Europe, and several cities in the United States, Ottawa is only the fifth-largest metropolitan area of Canada and is not a hub for any airline.


Air Canada Calgary, Edmonton, London–Heathrow, Montréal–Trudeau, Toronto–Pearson, Vancouver
Seasonal: Cayo Coco (begins February 22, 2021)[14]
Air Canada Express Boston, Charlottetown, Halifax, Montréal–Trudeau, Newark, Quebec City, Washington–National, Winnipeg
Seasonal: St. John's
Air Canada Rouge Orlando
Seasonal: Cancún, Fort Lauderdale, Punta Cana, Tampa
Air North Seasonal: Whitehorse, Yellowknife
Air Transat Seasonal: Cancún, Cayo Coco, Puerto Plata, Punta Cana, Samaná, Santa Clara, Varadero
American Eagle Philadelphia
Canadian North Iqaluit
Flair Airlines Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto–Pearson
Seasonal: Halifax
Porter Airlines Fredericton, Halifax, Moncton, Saint John (NB), Thunder Bay, Toronto–Billy Bishop
Sunwing Airlines Varadero
Seasonal: Cancún, Cayo Coco, Holguin, Mazatlán, Miami, Montego Bay, Puerto Plata, Puerto Vallarta, Punta Cana, San José del Cabo, Santa Clara
United Express Chicago–O'Hare, Washington–Dulles
WestJet Calgary, Toronto–Pearson, Winnipeg
Seasonal: Cancún, Edmonton, Fort Myers, Halifax, Montego Bay, Orlando, Vancouver
WestJet Encore Halifax, Toronto–Pearson


Non-stop and same-plane freighter and/or combi flights

Canadian North Iqaluit
Cargojet Airways Hamilton (ON), Iqaluit
FedEx Express Buffalo, Indianapolis, Memphis, Montréal–Mirabel, New York–JFK


Terminal interior
Domestic concourse
Inukshuk at Macdonald-Cartier International Airport in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Annual passenger traffic

Annual Passenger Traffic at Ottawa Airport[5][15]
Year Passengers Change from previous year
1996 2,857,838
1997 3,046,368 Increase06.60%
1998 3,110,548 Increase02.11%
1999 3,211,607 Increase03.25%
2000 3,434,345 Increase06.94%
2001 3,391,295 Decrease01.25%
2002 3,216,886 Decrease05.14%
2003 3,262,345 Increase01.41%
2004 3,609,885 Increase010.65%
2005 3,735,433 Increase03.48%
2006 3,807,756 Increase01.94%
2007 4,088,528 Increase07.37%
2008 4,339,225 Increase06.13%
2009 4,232,830 Decrease02.45%
2010 4,473,894 Increase05.70%
2011 4,624,626 Increase03.37%
2012 4,685,956 Increase01.33%
2013 4,578,591 Decrease02.29%
2014 4,616,448 Increase00.83%
2015 4,656,360 Increase00.86%
2016 4,743,091 Increase01.86%
2017 4,839,677 Increase02.04%
2018 5,110,801 Increase05.60%
2019 5,106,487 Decrease00.08%
Bilingual welcome sign

Ground transportation

Public Transit

OC Transpo operates route 97 with frequent express bus service to the airport bus stop (Airport station) along a dedicated BRT transitway with connections to the O-Train Confederation Line, Trillium Line, and other transit stations. An OC Transpo ticket machine is available at the southern end of the Arrivals level.[16]

Construction has begun on a light rail spur linking that airport to the city's light rail system.[17][18] The current plan calls for a station to be built inside the terminal as part of a future terminal expansion, with the airport volunteering funds for the building of the station. The extension is planned to open in September 2022. [19]


Taxis, airport limos, and shuttle buses are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There are several rental car agencies located at the airport[20], as well as ride-sharing services such as Uber[21] and Lyft.


In the more temperate seasons, it is possible to cycle downtown from the airport via the Capital Pathway and a number of quiet residential streets.[22]


The 2010 Airport Service Quality (ASQ) Award for Best Airport in the World for the 2–5 million passengers category went to Ottawa Airport.[23]

In February 2010, Ottawa Macdonald–Cartier International Airport was recognized by customers for its excellent customer service in the results of Airports Council International's (ACI) Airport Service Quality (ASQ) program. For the fifth consecutive year, Ottawa placed second overall for worldwide airports that serve between 0 and 5 million passengers. In 2008, 118 airports from around the world participated in ASQ.[24]

Along with Air Canada, the airport was the joint winner of the 2010 Ottawa Tourism Award for Tourism Partnership of the Year in recognition of the co-operative work done in promoting Air Canada's non-stop flight between Frankfurt and Ottawa.[25]

Also in 2010, the airport was presented with three Airport Revenue News Best Airport Concessions Awards. In the Small Airport division, Ottawa was named the winner in the following categories: Airport with the Best Concessions Program Design, Airport with the Best Concessions Management Team, and Airport with the Best Overall Concessions Program.

The 2011 it won Best Airport in North America of the Airport Service Quality Awards by Airports Council International,[26] as well as 2nd Best Airport by Size in the 2 to 5 million passenger category.[27]

Incidents and accidents


  1. ^ "Airport Divestiture Status Report". 2011-01-12. Archived from the original on 2007-02-23. Retrieved 2011-02-23.
  2. ^ Canada Flight Supplement. Effective 0901Z 16 July 2020 to 0901Z 10 September 2020.
  3. ^ "Synoptic/Metstat Station Information". Archived from the original on 2013-06-27. Retrieved 2011-03-18.
  4. ^ a b "Aircraft movements, by class of operation and peak hour and peak day of movements, for airports with NAV CANADA towers, monthly". Stats Canada. Retrieved April 26, 2020.
  5. ^ a b c "YOW Passenger Statistics (Enplaned and Deplaned) 2013-2017". Archived from the original on 2018-02-21. Retrieved 2018-02-09.
  6. ^ O'Malley, Dave; Audette, André. "Lucky Lindy and Unlucky Thad". Vintage Wings of Canada. Archived from the original on 12 June 2015. Retrieved 15 June 2015.
  7. ^ Johnston, Grace (1988). Bowesville: A Place to Remember. Gloucester, Ontario: Gloucester Historical Society. ISBN 0-9691106-3-4.
  8. ^ a b "November 2006 – A Page in History Has Been Turned". 1960-06-30. Archived from the original on 2011-05-27. Retrieved 2011-02-23.
  9. ^ "The Sound of Security". 1960-04-25. Archived from the original on 2011-02-20. Retrieved 2011-02-23.
  10. ^ "Primary Inspection Kiosks". CBSA. Archived from the original on 2017-03-21. Retrieved 2017-03-17.
  11. ^ a b Kalman, Harold D. (4 March 2015). "Airport Architecture". The Canadian Encyclopedia (online ed.). Historica Canada.
  12. ^ New Ottawa Airport Terminal Building Unveiled Archived 2011-01-01 at the Wayback Machine, Press Release
  13. ^ "Battle Heats up over Triangle Business Passengers". 2009-08-08. Archived from the original on 2009-08-12. Retrieved 2011-02-23.
  14. ^ Liu, Jim. "Air Canada adds seasonal Ottawa – Cayo Coco service Feb - Apr 2021". Routesonline. Retrieved 26 August 2020.
  15. ^ "2011 Annual Report (pg 10). Retrieved on Apr 3, 2015" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on April 8, 2015. Retrieved April 3, 2015.
  16. ^ "Ticket machines". OC Transpo. Retrieved 7 September 2020. A ticket machine is also available at the Ottawa International Airport (YOW). Look for the ticket machine at the south end of the Arrivals terminal.
  17. ^ Matthew Pearson (15 January 2015). "Changing trains likely for proposed O-Train airport link". Ottawa Citizen. Archived from the original on 6 April 2015. Retrieved 16 January 2015.
  18. ^ "Ottawa LRT airport link praised in principle by city, airport authority". CBC News. January 14, 2015. Archived from the original on 24 January 2015. Retrieved 16 January 2015.
  19. ^ "Finance committee approves phase 2 LRT plan". Ottawa Citizen. June 29, 2015. Archived from the original on 2 July 2015. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  20. ^ "Car Rentals". 8 September 2011. Retrieved 7 September 2020.
  21. ^ "Ottawa International Airport (YOW)". Retrieved 7 September 2020.
  22. ^ "Biking from the Ottawa Airport to the Byward Market". 30 July 2019. Retrieved 6 September 2020.
  23. ^ "ASQ Awards – Past Winners 2010". Archived from the original on 2012-02-20. Retrieved 2012-02-15.
  24. ^ "Airports Council International". Archived from the original on 2012-05-12. Retrieved 2011-02-23.
  25. ^ "Airport, treasure hunting firm take Ottawa Tourism prizes – Tourism – Local – Ottawa Business Journal". 2010-03-26. Archived from the original on 2011-06-17. Retrieved 2011-02-23.
  26. ^ "ASQ Award for Best Airport in North America" Archived 2012-03-09 at the Wayback Machine Airports Council International. 14 February 2012. Retrieved 2012-04-13
  27. ^ "ASQ Award for Best Airport by Size (2–5m)" Archived 2012-09-03 at the Wayback Machine Airports Council International. 14 February 2012. Retrieved 2012-04-13
  28. ^ "The Past: A Brief History of the Ottawa International Airport". Archived from the original on July 5, 2018. Retrieved July 26, 2018.
  29. ^ Accident description for Air Canada, C-FTJM at the Aviation Safety Network
  30. ^ Accident description for Bradley Air Services, C-GFFA at the Aviation Safety Network
  31. ^ "Michigan Oilman dies in crash at Canadian air show". The Argus News. Archived from the original on 9 May 2016. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
  32. ^ Accident description for North American Airlines (NTM1017) at the Aviation Safety Network
  33. ^ CADORS report for North American Airlines (NTM1017)
  34. ^ CADORS report for Miami Air International (N806MA)
  35. ^ CADORS report for US Airways Express (LOF3504)
  36. ^ CADORS report for WestJet (WJA846)
  37. ^ CADORS report for Porter Airlines (POE263)
  38. ^ Hradecky, Simon. "Accident: Trans States E145 at Ottawa on Jun 16th 2010, runway overrun". Aviation Herald. Retrieved 17 June 2010.
  39. ^ CADORS report for Trans States Airlines (LOF8050)
  40. ^ CADORS report for Trans States Airlines (LOF3363)
  41. ^ "'You can't do this to us': Fuming passengers stuck on planes in Ottawa call 911". CBC News. Retrieved 2017-08-02.
  42. ^ "After Air Transat saga, passenger bill of rights aims to punish airlines into being good". CBC News. Retrieved 2017-08-02.