Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport officials are not about to back down from a potential fight with Georgia legislators over a proposed state takeover of the airport, its second-in-command told the Gwinnett Chamber on Wednesday.
Deputy General Manager and CFO Greg Richardson addressed the chamber about what goes on at the airport during the business group’s June On Topic luncheon at the 1818 Club in unincorporated Duluth. The issue of the proposal pending in the Georgia General Assembly for the state to take over the airport came up during a question-and-answer session at the end of Richardson’s presentation.
“We will fight it because we firmly believe it’s the city’s entity, the city built it and the city (ran) it for however many years,” he said.
Legislation was introduced in the Georgia General Assembly earlier this year to take control of Hartsfield-Jackson away from the city of Atlanta, in light of an ongoing federal investigation into alleged corruption in the city’s government.
A bill to create a “Georgia Major Airport Authority” was introduced by state Sen. Burt Jones and passed in the Senate this year, but after wrangling in the House, the takeover plan did not make it out of the General Assembly.
In an op-ed piece which was published in Daily Post sister paper, the Jackson Progress-Argus, in February, Jones cited investigations at the airport over the years and the fact that changes in who occupies Atlanta’s mayor’s office can affect airport administration as reasons why a state takeover was needed.
But Richardson told the Gwinnett Chamber that several stakeholders in the airport, including airlines which operate there, support Atlanta’s running of the airport.
“We firmly believe the airport has been very well-run over the last 75-100 years,” he said.
Hartsfield-Jackson handles more than 2,700 flights per day and has been consistently ranked the world’s most efficient airport, the deputy general manager told the chamber during his presentation.
He also highlighted the fact that Hartsfield-Jackson has been ranked the world’s busiest airport for passenger travel for 21 years. About 107 million passengers moved through the airport last year.
Richardson questioned whether the state could run Hartsfield-Jackson better than the city of Atlanta’s Department of Aviation has.
“I’ve just never seen anything where they’ve shown it could be run better,” he said. “I don’t know where the benefit would be from that perspective.”