ATL chief: Paulding County’s planned airport won’t thrive in tough industry

By David Pendered

The planned commercial airport in Paulding County won’t do well in the competitive airline business, the chief of Atlanta’s airport on Wednesday told members of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

Paulding County's proposed commercial airport is located about 40 miles from Atlanta's airport. Credit: Google Earth, David Pendered

Click on map for a larger view: Paulding County’s proposed commercial airport is located about 40 miles from Atlanta’s airport. Credit: Google Earth, David Pendered

“The possibility of a second airport thriving is not so likely,” Louis Miller, general manager of Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport, told a group gathered in Atlanta for the annual State of the Ports Luncheon and Transportation Conference.

Hurdles at the proposed commercial airport include high operating costs for airlines, the trend toward bigger jet aircraft, and the history of aviation that favors new airports being built to relieve crowding at  smaller, older airports, Miller said.

“Airlines operating there [would face costs of] $50 per passenger,” Miller said. “At Atlanta, it’s $5.50. So, would airlines select it as a location?”

Miller spoke during his portion of a panel discussion titled, “Planes Trains and Economic Development.” Miller covered a lot of ground in his allotted time on a panel he shared with representatives of Norfolk Southern and the Georgia Center of Innovation for Logistics.

Paulding County officials intend to lengthen the runway of the county-owned airport in order to attract commercial airline service. Credit: Google Earth

Click on the map for larger view: Paulding County officials intend to lengthen the runway of the county-owned airport in order to attract commercial airline service. Credit: Google Earth

Miller said the trend in aircraft in the aviation industry is to move more passengers with fewer planes. That means bigger jets.

Miller said the record at Hartsfield was 970,000 aircraft. This year, the figure is closer to 930,000.

“The industry is moving from regional to bigger jets,” Miller said. “You can see the rebalancing in the utilization of aircraft.”

Federal authorities have approved Hartsfield’s long-range plan, Miller said. The plan predicts that the number of passengers will increase from the current 95.5 million a year to 125 million. Hartsfield’s long-range expansion plan to accommodate the growth is due to be completed next year.

Miller said the history of airports shows that communities tend to start with one airport, and add a second facility as the first airport becomes overburdened.

Louis Miller

Louis Miller

“In Chicago and Dallas, and with other airports, they had a smaller airport and built a bigger one,” Miller said. “I know what they’re talking about in Paulding County would be interesting to see. But limits to capacity would drive that back.”

Paulding County is moving aggressively to develop a facility that would be metro Atlanta’s second commercial airport.

The concept is similar to one that Gwinnett County residents defeated when the airport near Lawrenceville was targeted for expansion to serve commercial passengers. Advocates think a market exists in Atlanta’s suburbs for passengers who don’t want to use the world’s busiest passenger terminal.

To further the plan, Paulding County’s board of commissioners approved last month a $3.4 million bond to pay to extend the taxiway. A few residents have filed a lawsuit to halt the sale and the matter now is in litigation, according to ajc.com.

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

9 replies
  1. Burroughston Broch says:

    Much political posturing, huffing and puffing by Mr. Miller.
    Of course, he doesn’t mention that the City of Atlanta sold Paulding County the land for this airport. The land was part of a 10,000 acre parcel owned by the City as a site for – guess what? – a second airport. The City also owns another large parcel of land in Dawson County, acquired for the same purpose.Report

    Reply
  2. CathySasserHelms says:

    Burroughston Broch  
    Of course you didn’t mention that Atlanta sold them a small parcel of land for a general aviation airport, not a commercial one.  Sort  of leads me to believe Atlanta had no desire to place a second or reliever airport in Paulding County.Report

    Reply
  3. AmandaIsrael says:

    Miller, like his boss, is a sheer liar!  He cherry-picked what costs airlines pay to get his decptive number.  What matters is the cost each traveller pays to the airport, either directly in the forms parking, rental and concession or indirectly through airlines in the form of landing fee, terminal usage and passenger facility charges!!!Report

    Reply
  4. AmandaIsrael says:

    Miller, like his boss, is a sheer liar!  He cherry-picked what costs airlines pay to get his deceptive number.  What matters is the cost each flyer/traveler pays to the airport, either directly in the forms parking, rental and concession or indirectly through airlines in the form of landing fee, terminal usage and passenger facility charges!!!Report

    Reply
  5. mariasaporta says:

    AmandaIsrael This kind of comment is inappropriate for this site.  We do our best to keep our comments and our debates respectful of each other. Please, let us not stoop to the lowest common denominator.  Having mature discussions is what separates our site from the rest.Report

    Reply

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