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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The management structure of airport operations in Canada and the United States Baldwin, Blair Christopher

Abstract

This thesis examines the standards of airport management in Canada and the United States with the specific goals of identifying the deficiencies that exist in the standards for Canadian/management and evaluating proposals aimed at eliminating the deficiencies and improving the management system. The examination of the Canadian management structure discloses a centralized system whereby the headquarters branch of the federal" Ministry of Transport controls airport operations from Ottawa and local airport administrations respond to policy directives from Ottawa. Although this has traditionally been a well-respected system,' complaints voiced by airport users and local administrations indicate that problems do exist with the present standards. A heightened financial deficit at airports and a lack of responsiveness to users needs on the part of airport management highlight the complaints from users. Local management at airports is expressing its frustration over the lack of control and independence it possesses, believing it cannot effectively carry out the responsibilities attached to the job of managing operations. An analysis of the behaviour of the federal headquarters branch in Ottawa reveals that the emphasis upon the commercial viability of airports is not as high a priority as the maintenance of a national system of airports. The bureaucracy in Ottawa has no incentive to minimize the costs of the management system. Spiralling costs are passed onto airport users in order to maintain the expensive system. By assimilating the objectives of all airport interest groups with the strategy of the federal government, a broader set of standards for management is formed including greater independence for local airport administration, an emphasis upon the decentralization of management, and a better balance between the maintenance of a national system of management and better financial stability for airports. Choices ranging from changes in policy to changes in the organization of management are evaluated against these criteria. The most promising solution calls for the conversion of a select number of Canadian airports to independent airport commissions, similar to those that exist at major airports in the United States. On this basis, the standards for airport management in the United States are identified and contrasted against the Canadian standards. The nature of American management and its problems are investigated in order to determine what deficiencies exist and how they differ from those that exist at present in Canada. It is concluded that the deficiencies in the American system are less numerous. A high degree of independence exists in the local airport commissions, with little bureaucratic influence from the federal government. The financial footing of American airports is more stable than their Canadian counterparts. Problems do exist with the commission concept of management but none of them are serious enough to detract from the merit of the proposal. The standards of American airport management are superior to those existing in Canada, and improvements can be made to the Canadian airport management system by following, in part, the examples set by the standards of management in the United States.

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