by Trevor Williams | January 26, 2010
Atlanta airport chief Ben DeCosta will step down after 11 years leading Hartsfield-Jackson, the world's busiest airport.
Mr. DeCosta said in a letter to airport employees Monday that he will not seek renewal of his contract when it expires at the end of June.
"The time feels right to now move on to new challenges and pass the torch to someone else," he said.
The general manager's decision comes on the heels of significant developments and in the midst of massive expansion projects at the airport.
Mr. DeCosta is currently leading the construction of a $1.3 billion international terminal that will handle an expected increase in overseas passengers. Conflicts in the Atlanta City Council have stalled the issuance of an $800 million bond package that will finance the remainder of the project. The airport had planned to sell the debt in November, Mr. DeCosta previously told GlobalAtlanta.
He didn't mention the terminal project in his letter, but Mr. DeCosta said "it will be business as usual" at the airport until his departure.
In his statement, Mr. DeCosta focused on the many projects completed during his tenure, including a fifth runway that opened in May 2006, concerted efforts to improve customer service and new security checkpoints that reduced wait times. For seven years running the airport has ranked as the most efficient in North America.
Most recently, Mr. DeCosta oversaw the two-year construction of a $626 million consolidated car rental facility connected directly to the main terminal by a state-of-the-art automated people mover called the ATL SkyTrain. Mr. Decosta, 64, seemed especially pleased at the grand opening last month, invoking 1960s pop songs like James Brown's "I Feel Good" to describe his excitement.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, now in his fourth week of office, said in a statement that he will conduct nationwide search for a replacement.
Mr. DeCosta worked closely over the past eight years with former Mayor Shirley Franklin, whom he recently called the "best boss I've ever had."
Ten days before she left office, Ms. Franklin signed a seven-year lease extension on behalf of Hartsfield with Delta Air Lines Inc., the airport's largest tenant. The lease extension concluded a period of protracted and sometimes-contentious negotiations between Hartsfield and the world's largest airline.
Mr. DeCosta's statement gave no hints as to his future plans, saying only that he felt it was time for a "change in direction."