Hartsfield-Jackson remains world’s busiest airport
by W. Winston Skinner
Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport remains the world’s busiest airport — and that has a positive impact on the economy in Coweta County, located just 30 minutes south on Interstate 85.
A report from Global Atlanta this week showed Hartsfield-Jackson retains its position with regard to airport traffic. The Atlanta airport has remained stable as the growth rate of its closest competitor, Beijing, slowed considerably, according to Global Atlanta.
Greg Wright, president of the Coweta County Development Authority, reflected on the airport’s impact on Coweta. “Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport estimates its economic impact at more than $32.5 billion for the metro Atlanta economy, and it certainly plays an important role in our economic success,” he said.
“Given the global nature of business, easy access to the airport is one of the major selling points of our economic development efforts. It resonates with company officials to know they can leave their Coweta County facility, drive to the airport, park their vehicle, check their bags, get through security and be at their gate in an hour,” Wright explained.
“From there, companies are within two hours of eight percent of U.S. markets and four hours of any major North American city,” he added.
Atlanta handled 95,513,828 passengers in 2012, up 3.4 percent from the previous year. That level of growth was only a little lower than Beijing Capital Airport's 4.1 percent rate, which put the Chinese airport at 81,929,359 passengers, according to the World Airport Traffic Report from Airports Council International. A few years ago, the Beijing hub seemed poised to dethrone Hartsfield-Jackson, but its ascent might have hit a wall this year.
Not only did growth at Beijing Capital slow by one-third in 2012, but the city is also planning to build what would be the largest airport in the world. Atlanta, on the other hand, doesn't even have a feasible location for a second airport, according to a 2011 study conducted by Hartsfield-Jackson. Worldwide, traffic growth was up 4.4 percent to 5.7 billion passengers. While buoyed by emerging markets in 2012, growth in worldwide passenger traffic is projected to slow in 2013, according to Rafael Echevarne, ACI World’s director of economics and program development.
“Overall, the traffic outlook for 2013 is not encouraging. Although passenger traffic in 2013 is expected to grow, emerging markets in the BRIC countries are beginning to experience slowed growth," Echevarne said in a statement. BRIC is an acronym referring to Brazil, Russia, India and China, which are all experiencing new advanced economic development.
"Combined, the austerity measures and high unemployment in Europe as well as the turbulent recovery in the United States mean that the overall growth rate in passengers is expected to be well below 5 percent," according to Echevarne.
By aircraft movements — takeoffs and landings — Hartsfield-Jackson also stayed on top with 930,310, beating out Chicago O'Hare International Airport, which posted 878,108. Hong Kong International Airport was the top cargo airport in the world in 2012, edging out Memphis. The Memphis and Hong Kong facilities both handled more than four million metric tons. Candace Boothby, president of the Newnan-Coweta Chamber of Commerce, has talked often about the impact of Hartsfield-Jackson on Coweta County’s economy. Earlier this year she discussed economic reverberations that can be expected because of Porsche’s decision to put its headquarters near the airport.
“When a world-class corporation like Porsche chooses to relocate its U.S. headquarters to the south region of metro-Atlanta, it is like a Super Bowl TV ad,” she said. “Other companies will sit up and take notice and see the advantages in infrastructure, transportation and access to the world’s busiest airport.”