New airport GM Miller pleased with concessions response

By Maria Saporta

At a board meeting of the Metro Atlanta Chamber Thursday morning, the new general manager of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport said he was delighted with the response to the bidding process for new concessionaires.

On Wednesday, Hartsfield-Jackson held its “Industry Day” to give potential bidders an opportunity to learn more about the process and the opportunities.

“We had between 400 and 500 people there,” said Louis Miller, who became Atlanta’s new airport general manager last fall, after the meeting. “We have very few people upset with how we put the proposals together.”

Industry Day was supposed to have occurred on Tuesday, Jan. 11, but the airport decided to cancel it because of the Atlanta snowstorm.

“There were grateful that we had postponed it,” Miller said of the people who attended Wednesday’s session. “If we had not, there probably would have been four or five people there.”

Miller said the city also received positive feedback in the way the bids were being structured. There will be five large concessions contracts and four small ones, and no one bidder can have more than two of those contracts.

The city should award all the concessions in September so they can be up and running by the time the new Maynard Jackson International Terminal opens in April, 2012.

Miller has been on the circuit this week. On Tuesday, he spoke to the Kiwanis Club of Atlanta where he spoke about how traffic — both passenger and cargo — was growing at Hartsfield-Jackson.

He also reminded the crowd how critical the airport and the airline industry is to metro Atlanta’s economy — employing 58,000 directly and contributing as many as 430,000 jobs in the region. It also is responsible for $16 billion in personal income, and has a $32.6 billion economic impact in the region.

With 88 million passengers using the airport in 2009, Hartsfield-Jackson is by far the busiest airport in the world. The next two airports are Heathrow and Beijing, with about 66 million passengers each.

But Miller said it was probably just a matter of time before Beijing caught up with Atlanta.

Looking towards the future, Miller said that the Federal Aviation Administration has estimated that Atlanta will be at capacity by 2025. For that reason, the airport is working on a $1 million study, which should be finished by April, on Atlanta’s options for a second airport.

Currently, eight sites are being considered, and those should be narrowed down to two or three by the time the report comes out.

“We are the only major city with one airport,” Miller said. “As we continue to grow, we are probably going to need that second airport.”

Miller did say that if Atlanta did decide to build a sixth runway at Hartsfield-Jackson, it probably could add another 10 years to its capacity.

“We need to plan at where we should be in 2050,” Miller said.

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