Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International airport and the air freight community surrounding the gateway are working hard to maintain its cargo-friendly image. Investment continues at the airport, while efforts are being made to maximise the opportunities available to the region's huge number of exporters.
Cargo throughput was boosted by the move to a daily B747-400 freighter frequency by Asiana Airlines in September, up from the four times a week frequency to the Georgia gateway that the carrier launched last year. Cargolux of Luxembourg upped its visits to a five time a week B747-400 freighter frequency earlier this year, while China Cargo Airlines is also to add cargo services through Hartsfield-Jackson.
These additional operating frequencies, and any entirely new cargo carrying customers, are serving many industries but - for Asiana in particular - the automobile industry in the region around Atlanta is particularly important. Jones pointed out that Hartsfield-Jackson serves the Kia car plant in West Point, Georgia; the VW plant at Chattanooga, Tennessee; Mercedes in Alabama; Hyundai in Montgomery, Alabama; and BMW in South Carolina.
Jones cautioned that there is increasing competition from other US gateways. They are increasingly realising that air cargo is a regional economic driver, he said. However, Jones is also determined to see Hartsfield-Jackson retain its place at the top table of US cargo gateways.
Already boasting a large community of local freight forwarders, an excellent highway system around the airport, some of the lowest landing fees in the US and excellent positioning at the heart of a burgeoning regional economy, further development is still planned.
In this regard, he pointed to a cargo master plan, to which the finishing touches are currently being made. Jones will be presenting the strategy to the airport's senior management in the next few weeks; it incorporates facility development recommendations that cover the next five, ten and 15 years.
"We want to be ready for new cargo carriers coming in," he said. One focus for development has been readying the gateway for handling the B747-8 freighter. "We're very excited about the opportunity to further grow our air freight capability," Jones declared.
He is quick to point out that he does not want to attract to the airport's runways so much additional freight space that there is in fact overcapacity - this, he observed, only leads to declines in yields and the possible loss of valuable airline customers.
All this and more can be illustrated at next year's TIACA (The International Air Cargo Association) Air Cargo Forum to be held in Atlanta. A little less than 12 months away now, preparations for the event are "really coming along now", he said.