AT THE HEART OF GLOBAL TRANSPORT
Georgia is home to the world’s busiest airport & is a major hub for international shipping traffic
When industrial construction worker Larry Kendrick boarded Delta Air Lines Flight 1256 from Gulfport to Atlanta in December 2015, he had no idea that he was about to fly his way into the history books.
A little over two hours after embarking, Kendrick was welcomed at Hartsfield-jackson International Airport as the 100 millionth passenger to pass through the airport in the year —the first time any airport in the world has ever reached the milestone in a calendar year.
“I’m happy I could be part of it,” the bemused 35-year-old said when he was greeted by the Mayor of Atlanta in a specially planned ceremony. To celebrate the occasion, Kendrick received prizes including two round-trip tickets to any destination in the world from Delta Air Lines, which is headquartered in Atlanta and operates the world’s largest airline hub at the airport.
The almost uninterrupted growth of Hartsfield-jackson in recent years has been instrumental in the economic success of the state of Georgia, says Roosevelt Council Jr., the Airport General Manager.
“We are an economic engine for the region,” Council says. “Our direct economic impact on metro Atlanta is $34.8 billion and we have a total impact of $70.9 billion on Georgia. We are the largest employer in the state, with more than 63,000 employees.”
The airport, which served a record 104 million passengers in 2016, plays a key role in bringing corporate investment into the city. “When we go out and promote Atlanta, the airport always plays a major part,” Council says. “Companies want to be able to move their employees in a rapid and efficient way to where they need to work. We are a very large part of Georgia being the best state to business in.”
While Hartsfield-jackson is recognized globally as the world’s busiest airport, Council says that it is more important to the airport that it delivers efficient, safe and secure services to its customers. “We have 2,700 landings and take-offs a day, so efficiency is crucial,” he explains. In 2017, for the 14th consecutive year, Hartsfield-jackson was named the most efficient airport in the world by the Air Transport Research Society (ATRS), beating nearly 200 other airports to the title. “This gives a true indication of how we handle operations here,” Council says.
Initiated in 2016, a multibillion capital improvement plan, ATLNEXT, will deliver the airport with even higher levels of efficiency and safety. The program will modernize the domestic terminal and concourses, create new parking decks, construct a 440-room hotel, create extensive commercial office space, add a new runway and new concourse, and will massively expand the airport’s cargo facilities.
It is a plan that has been greeted with enthusiasm by Hartfield-jackson’s largest customer, Delta Air Lines. “Airports are like a factory for airlines,” says the carrier’s Peter Carter, EVP, Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary. “They are the places that airlines leave from and come to and they have to be designed and updated to ensure an efficient and as comfortable as possible experience for our passengers.”
“We want to be the very best airline for our employees and our customers, and that includes those in the next generation, harnessing the power of technology to provide the convenience and transparency that today’s travelers demand.”
Delta’s history of flying in Atlanta stretches back almost 90 years, when the airline moved its headquarters here in 1941. In the 1950s, the company pioneered the use of the hub and spoke system, bringing passengers to Atlanta to connect to other Delta flights. In August 1979, the airline became the first one in the world to board one million passengers in one month in just one city —Atlanta. The airline currently employs 35,000 people in Georgia, making it the state’s single largest employer.
Delta Air Lines & the Port of Savannah are enhancing the state’s transport connections
Delta’s presence at Hartfield-jackson provides Georgia with a degree of international connectivity that few other parts of the US can match. “Having one of the largest airports in the world is a huge competitive advantage for the state of Georgia,” Carter says.
In recent years, the airline has debuted new routes that link up Atlanta with nearly all of the world’s fastest growing markets. Starting in July 2018, Delta will operate a new non-stop service between Atlanta and Shanghai, creating a direct link between one of China’s major commercial and industrial centers and the state capital.
“Both global connectivity and maintaining a strong relationship with China are extremely vital to Georgia’s economic landscape,” Nathan Deal, State Governor, said when Delta released details of the new route. “The flight will help shorten supply chains for our companies and give them a daily link to China for time-sensitive distribution. I appreciate Delta Air Lines for all of its hard work in making sure that Georgia remains a leader in the global marketplace.”
It is not only in the air transport sector that Georgia is expanding its infrastructure and forging new trade links with the world. Governor Deal’s Transportation Funding Act of 2015 will generate $11 billion in new funding for transport over the next 10 years, including investment in roads, rail and waterways.
The largest infrastructure and logistics project in the state, and one of the biggest civil works undertakings in the country, is the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP). Savannah is already the fourth busiest container port in the US, the country’s second largest exporter of containers, and home to the largest single container terminal in North America. The expansion works are now deepening the harbor and river channel, so that the port can efficiently serve the larger vessels that are calling in greater numbers following the expansion of the Panama Canal.
“We are spending billions of dollars of port revenue to give us the depth and the capacity to handle these large ships, whether they are coming into the US or transporting goods from Georgia to the world,” says Bart Gobeil, Senior Director of Economic Development and Government Affairs at the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA).
In September this year, the port welcomed the largest container ship ever to serve the East Coast of the US, a monster with the capacity for 14,414 twenty-foot equivalent container units (TEUS). As shipping lines evolve towards these giant, more cost-effective vessels, Savannah is seizing the opportunity to become the US port of choice for a new era in global shipping. “We are effectively a gateway port into the United States,” Gobeil says.
The expansion project will have significant financial benefits for shippers who use the port. Lower prices per container slot will reduce transportation costs for US companies moving goods through Savannah by 20 to 40%. According to analysis by the US Army Corps of Engineers, shippers will save $282 million per year once the harbor deepening work is complete. The $1 billion project is already 60% complete and all dredging should be finished by 2019.
As well as deepening the harbor, the GPA is also investing in state-of-theart equipment to enhance the efficiency of its operations. The GPA will add four ship-to-shore cranes in 2018 and another six in 2020, to bring the total to 36 cranes operating over nearly 10,000 feet of contiguous berth space in Savannah. At the same time, the GPA is investing $128 million to increase the port’s rail capacity and extend its rail connectivity with the American Midwest. The rail investment will enable the Port of Savannah to serve manufacturers in cities as far afield as St. Louis and Chicago, consolidating Georgia’s position at the heart of world shipping and trade.
“We have taken advantage of a strategic location on the south-eastern corner of the nation to become a global hub for trade,” Governor Deal says. “Our interconnected highways and waterways, combined with a ready-to-work community, create the ideal location for innovative companies to succeed.”
Hartsfield-jackson Atlanta International Airport, Delta Air Lines main hub