By Maria Saporta
Another international cargo carrier will begin serving Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Asiana Airlines plans to operate a Boeing 747-400 freighter with four flights a week to Seoul, South Korea beginning Sept. 13. Asiana will be the 14th all-cargo carrier to operate out of the Atlanta airport, reflecting the growth of air freight out of Hartsfield-Jackson.
“We are noticing a steady increase in year over year cargo volume,” Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said Tuesday morning at a press conference at the airport. Reed said that Hartsfield-Jackson already is the dominant passenger airport in North America and the world, but that its stature in cargo is on the upswing.
For example, the new Asiana service is expected to create up to 25 jobs and produce an annual economic impact of $24 million regionally.
It was fitting that the Asiana announcement came at the same time that the city releasing its 2009 economic impact study of the airport.
Despite the national recession, the economic impact of Hartsfield-Jackson increased from $23.5 billion in 2005 to $32.6 billion in 2009 — an increase of nearly 40 percent — according to the study.
Direct airport-related employment also enjoyed a slight increase — from 56,500 in 2005 to about 58,000 in 2009.
Robert Kennedy, the interim aviation general manager, said in 2000, the airport’s direct employment was about 44,000. That was before the 9/11 disaster, which put the aviation industry in a tailspin.
“We have probably seen some of the darkest days (in the aviation industry),” Kennedy said at the press conference. “Over the last 25 years, as we’ve had downturns in the industry, Atlanta does not dive as deep as other airports.”
One of the reasons, Kennedy said, is that Hartsfield-Jackson continues to have some of the lowest landing fees in the nation, which makes it an attractive hub for airlines.
Still, the airport is in a state of flux. Ben DeCosta, who served as general manager for more than a decade, retired about two weeks ago.
When asked about the status of the search for a new general manager, Reed said: “I really don’t know, which is probably a good thing.”
Then he said that he’ll be meeting with Carol Tomé, CFO of Home Depot who is chairing the search, and her committee in the next 15 days.
“I’m pushing very hard to get this done sooner rather than later,” Reed said. “Carol asked for 60 days, and I asked for 30.”
But Reed acknowledged that 30 days was probably too optimistic. Asked if there would be a new general manager by September or October, Reed said: “No question about it.”
Reed also added that in the meantime “I have a very high comfort level with Robert (the interim commissioner). I have a strong desire to get this done so people can stop asking me about it.”