MIAMI – Although Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport currently has nonstop service to 45 countries, officials are going after more with its Air Service Incentive Program (ASIP). The five-year program, launched in July, set aside $2 million to offer carriers offering new or expanded service a 12-month waiver of landing fees and marketing funds.
Vivica Brown is the assistant general manager for commercial development at Hartsfield-Jackson. She noted that the program was created to bring in new international passenger and cargo service in emerging, baseline and premium markets.
“We’re focusing on this because we know that growth in international markets is exponentially higher than domestic market,” said Brown. “So we thought it would be a great idea one, to incent airlines to start international destinations at Hartsfield, and two, to diversify our current destinations to fast-growing economies like Asia, India and the Middle East.
Baseline countries are any destinations currently not being served out of Atlanta. Emerging markets include cities within certain Eastern European and Southeast Asian countries not currently served by Atlanta, including Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. Premium markets are cities in the BRIIC countries: Brazil, Russia, India, Indonesia, China or South Africa.
Brown emphasized the airport’s strong partnership with hometown carrier Delta Air Lines, which currently served 67 international destinations in 42 countries. “Delta, like any other carrier, would be welcome to participate in ASIP if they are considering passenger or cargo flights to baseline, emerging and premium markets,” she said.
The airport’s general manager, Miguel Southwell, was very interested in expanding to countries that will have significant growth in the future, said Brown. “We looked at studies that showed countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East are expecting GDP and population growth, which in turn, spurs travel,” she said.
The first airline to take advantage of the program was Virgin Atlantic, which will start a flight to London Heathrow in 2015, using a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner in cooperation with partner Delta Air Lines. As part of the incentive program, Virgin Atlantic will not have to pay landing fees for one year in Atlanta and will get up to $25,000 in matching funds for marketing the new service, resulting in savings of up to $600,000.
This program gives people more choices, said Southwell during the Virgin Atlantic event in October. “If you preference is to fly a U.S. airline, we have a U.S. airline. If your preference is to fly a British carrier with an outstanding reputation, then you have that choice,” he said.
“When you travel internationally whether its Brazil, South America, or Europe, you realize the tremendous opportunity that this community has to attract economic development, whether it’s in the form of tourism or it’s in the form of foreign direct investment,” said Southwell. “Because so many people in the international community still are not familiar with Atlanta.”
When the city has service from a carrier like Virgin Atlantic, from an international community, it helps us perpetuate the story of Atlanta,” said Southwell. “When Virgin Atlantic chooses Atlanta to be one of its destinations, it makes a statement that Atlanta is a global city. ”
The connectivity of Virgin also expands Atlanta’s reach, said Southwell. “But at the end of the day, to get the economic impact that this community needs, to build jobs, and to attract more direct investment, we must have non stop flights. ”
Meanwhile, the airport is in the process of forming a new team that will be directly responsible for route and cargo development, said Brown. “That team will attend international trade shows. In fact we just attended an air cargo forum in Korea, where we spoke with cargo airlines about our program,” she said.
When the new team comes in, they will schedule meetings with airlines, including Delta, said Brown. “They will talk more about what what ASIP is all about, including all the terms,” she said. “We expect to have the team in place by the end of the first quarter of 2015, if not sooner.”
The airport wants to shine a light on how low its current landing fees are, said Brown. “We have some of the lowest landing fees in the nation. While our programs will waive those fees for a year, we want airlines to understand that when the waiver expires, they can still take advantage of our low landing fees.”