Delta Fires Volley At Atlanta Airport

Jan 21, 2009
By James Ott

A proposed doubling of enplanement charges to cover capital improvements at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport has prompted Delta to issue a veiled threat that much of its connecting traffic at Atlanta could be routed through other eastern U.S. hubs.

The other connecting hubs mentioned in a letter from John Boatright, Delta’s VP of corporate real estate, were the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport and hubs newly acquired from the merger with Northwest Airlines at Memphis and Detroit.

Noting that as much as two-thirds of Atlanta’s traffic could connect through the three hubs, Boatright added, “It is more important than ever that Hartsfield-Jackson’s unit costs remain competitive with those of other hub airports competing for the same connecting traffic.” The loss of this traffic could result in loss of billions of dollars and service reductions at Atlanta, the executive wrote.

Delta’s cost per enplanement would rise from $5 to $10 by 2016 under the proposed capital improvement plan.

Atlanta officials said they would respond to Delta’s position later in the week.

Boatright complained in his letter to Aviation General Manager Ben DeCosta that the Aviation Dept. had left Delta officials “frustrated and concerned with the lack of progress” in negotiations for a long-term lease. Twice-monthly sessions had been agreed upon for 2007, but they rarely were held because of airport management’s failure to make them a priority, he said.

Delta is prepared to commit to a 30-year lease that uses the residual rate methodology and limits cost per enplanement. The carrier also said it would like to see improvements in processes for agreeing on capital expenditures and operating costs.

In his letter Boatright quotes a Jan. 2 letter from the airport that said construction on the Maynard Holbrook Jackson Jr. International Terminal may have to stop because airlines and the city have failed to reach agreement on a memorandum of understanding and a revised budget.

Photo: Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport

AVIATION WEEK Copyright 2009, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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