Geography, infrastructure propel Atlanta cargo
The city, which serves as UPS’ corporate headquarters, also sees regular UPS air service out of Hartsfield-Jackson. Losurdo says the “ease of doing business” at Hartsfield-Jackson attracted the global integrator. “With the lack of curfew restrictions and relatively low landing fees, it’s an advantage for UPS — and it would seem that the carriers are attracted to Atlanta as a result of this, too,” he says. “As a freight forwarder, the benefits of Hartsfield-Jackson attract and enable the operations of global carriers that we utilize for airfreight needs.” He points to the fact that Atlanta serves as the Americas headquarters for European carriers IAG Cargo and Lufthansa Cargo — as well as the world headquarters for Delta Cargo — as a manifestation of this.
Carl Unger, Lufthansa’s regional director of sales and handling for the Southern U.S., says Atlanta compares favorably to other Lufthansa Cargo stops in the country. In the South, carriers likely don’t have to deal with weather delays common to the Northeast and West, he says — though one notable exception, a winter storm that affected flights for a number of days, does exist in recent memory. Finally, the central location of Atlanta makes the airport a good distribution hub for the Southeast. “It is vitally important to have a presence in Atlanta, as many major players in the freight-forwarding industry have large gateways here,” Unger says. “These gateways consolidate cargo from all over the Southeast and tender it centrally in Atlanta.”
Ease of accessibility tops Unger’s list of benefits derived from the Atlanta airport. Hartsfield-Jackson, he says, is easy to navigate and is laid out well. The availability of undeveloped land near the airport — land that shippers are starting to take advantage of — is also a huge selling point for the city. Put simply and literally, Hartsfield-Jackson brings the airfreight business to Atlanta. “Hartsfield is always cooperative and listens to the requests of its cargo carriers, which is essential to maintaining a strong relationship,” Unger says. “Further, Atlanta’s mayor, Kasim Reed, is a big advocate for international air cargo, and has encouraged new carriers to bring freighters to Atlanta.”
Among carriers operating to Atlanta, Southwest is a newcomer, but the airline has quickly established its dedication to the city. Southwest officials opened a 26,000-square-foot cargo facility to much fanfare on February 12. In the first six months of the new operation, the carrier handled more than 2.5 million pounds of cargo, according to Southwest’s Wally Devereaux.
“We’ve been extremely pleased with the support of the Atlanta shipping community,” he says. “The Atlanta airport has been fantastic to work with. The airport aviation general manager, Louis Miller, and his team have been very supportive of our air cargo business thus far.”
A strong presence by Lufthansa, Delta, IAG and numerous other carriers is nice, but Hartsfield-Jackson’s Jones would still like to add some Latin American carriers to the expanding list of cargo and passenger airlines serving the city. Revealing that the airport is looking to increase connectivity to South America, Jones says he envisions Hartsfield-Jackson one day rivaling Miami International Airport as the gateway to South America.
“We feel that can offer more services to our freight forwarders [than MIA],” he says, such as centrality. “So we want to make sure we can meet the demand of our freight forwarders and our shippers to help them grow.” To help nurture this idea, Jones is busy gathering data for an airport masterplan, which will discuss the cargo strategy moving forward.
Blane concedes that Hartsfield-Jackson’s infrastructure and service options are superior to Miami International Airport’s, but he says the airport has a long way to go before it steals business from MIA. Even if trucking cargo from Miami takes three days, Blane says many supplychain professionals will choose this option out of habit. After all, he says, “The air cargo business is change-averse in many ways, and that would include choice of airports for exporting and importing products.