Passenger Number 100 Million in Atlanta Was Awarded These Gifts…
I magine stepping off of a McDonnell Douglas MD-88 airplane on what was a routine short flight — only to be greeted by surprise with a red carpet, reporters and cameras, dignitaries in dark suits which included the mayor of Atlanta, airport workers, airline employees, a cake in the shape of an airplane, and even the drumline from a local high school; and to be presented with such gifts as a Nissan Altima, a gift card worth $500.00, a set of wireless headphones, and two round-trip tickets to anywhere in the world via the Delta One premium class product of Delta Air Lines.
Larry Kendrick did not have to imagine that scenario. Wearing a baseball cap with the official logo of the New Orleans Saints professional football team, the resident of Biloxi, Mississippi experienced it on Sunday, December 27, 2015 as passenger number 100 million of the international airport which serves the greater Atlanta metropolitan area — the first time in history in which an airport experienced greater than 100 million passengers within one year and thus establishing a new world record.
“The milestone capped a surprising 5 percent increase in passenger traffic this year”, according to this article written by Kelly Yamanouchi of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which includes interesting information and a timeline of sorts pertaining to the history of the airport. “Kendrick was selected based on accountants’ estimates of when the record-setting passenger would arrive.”
One of the factors which helps to boost passenger traffic at the airport is the fact that it is the only commercial airport in the region in which airline passengers have few other options — whereas cities with significantly larger metropolitan areas such as Chicago and Houston have at least one other alternate airport. New York and Los Angeles each have at least four other alternate airports from which passengers may choose.
An Alternate Airport for Atlanta?
There have been efforts over the years to establish an alternate airport for the Atlanta metropolitan area; but both the city of Atlanta and Delta Air Lines oppose the idea, citing that resources for improving the existing airport could be diverted. In fact — in what seemed to be a rather bizarre twist, according to this article which I wrote last year — a spokesperson for Delta Air Lines not only practically invited competing airlines to increase their presence at the international airport in Atlanta, but also reportedly offered to assist competitors in the process in order to keep Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport from growing and expanding.
Richard Hirst — who is the chief legal officer and an executive vice president of Delta Air Lines— reportedly sent a letter opposing the development to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, citing that commercial air service in Paulding County “would wastefully divert federal transportation funding from” the international airport which currently serves the greater Atlanta metropolitan area.
David Austin — the commission chairman of Paulding County — reportedly chastised Richard Anderson by claiming that his comments and actions of his opposition of the expansion of Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport “are in direct opposition to your role as the 2014 chair-elect” of the Metro Atlanta Chamber.
Anderson vowed to work together with Kasim Reed — the current mayor of Atlanta — to oppose any investment towards Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport, which is located approximately 35 miles northwest of Atlanta and west of the small town of Dallas, Georgia…
…but a decision by the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States has apparently moved forward plans by Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport to begin commercial airline service despite the aforementioned strong opposition, according to this article written by Alwyn Scott of Reuters.
Annual Number of Passengers Expected to Increase
As I first reported in this article ten days ago, the figure of 100 million passengers is actually ahead of projections. According to the official master plan of the airport, the annual 100 million passenger milestone was expected to be reached in 2016, with that number increasing to 106 million passengers in 2021 and 121 million passengers in 2031.
In an attempt to meet that anticipated demand, a $6 billion master plan to renovate the domestic terminal and concourses at the airport include demolishing and rebuilding the parking garages; and eventually expanding with additional concourses and a sixth runway.
More total system passengers boarded airplanes at the airport in 2014 than at any other airport in the United States, according to this report from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology of the Bureau of Transportation Statistics of the Department of Transportation of the United States. The airport handled a record 96.2 million passengers in 2014 and 94.4 million passengers in 2013; and at approximately 69,696,000 passengers, Delta Air Lines enjoyed 73.9 percent of the share of total enplaned passengers both arriving and departing at the airport.
Is Atlanta’s Title At Risk?
According to Yamanouchi, “The title of world’s busiest could be at risk in coming years, however. Chicago O’Hare already regained the title for the most takeoffs and landings for 2014, though Atlanta still has the most passengers.”
Yamanouchi also wrote that “Many expect China’s Beijing International to soon surpass Atlanta as the world’s busiest airport, and Dubai’s airport is expanding to be able to accommodate as many as 240 million passengers a year.”
Yamanouchi wrote that “As commonplace as eye-popping numbers at Hartsfield-Jackson seem today, Sunday’s milestone remains a remarkable feat for an airport in a city many times smaller than others around the globe like New York, Mexico City and Tokyo.” That feat may not have been accomplished had there been a second airport already serving the Atlanta metropolitan area. It stands to reason that if cities such as New York or Tokyo only had one airport — assuming that the airport was functional, efficient and able to handle a high capacity of passengers — that 100 million passenger traffic number might have been achieved and surpassed a long time ago.
Meanwhile, Larry Kendrick was asked about his thoughts to the surprise presentation of being passenger number 100 million this year at the airport.
“That’s a very big surprise,” Kendrick reportedly said. “I have no clue where I’m going to go. Probably to Disneyland.”
You have got to be kidding me, Mr. Kendrick. Tell you what: I will personally pay for your two tickets in the first class cabin to Disneyland in California or Walt Disney World in Florida if you just give me your two tickets good for any destination in the world in the premium class cabin on an airplane operated by Delta Air Lines.
Do we have a deal?
Larry Kendrick met Kasim Reed — who is the current mayor of Atlanta — at the airport after he was designated as its 100 millionth passenger. Photograph ©2015 by Kent D. Johnson of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Used with permission. For additional photographs, please click here.