Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport celebrates its 80th anniversary this week as a vital component in Atlanta’s emergence as a world-class city and global leader, said the airport’s general manager, Ben de Costa, during an anniversary event June 30.

“Hartsfield-Jackson has opened Atlanta to the rest of the world,” Mr. de Costa said, hailing the airport as a “vital link in national and international travel and trade.”

With direct flights to more than 200 cities in 37 countries, Hartsfield-Jackson facilitates “more commerce and trade for the rest of the world,” he added.

International passenger and cargo routes are supported at Hartsfield-Jackson by three domestic carriers and nine foreign carriers, including Aeromexico, Air Canada, Air Jamaica, British Airways Plc, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Korean Air Air Lines Co. Ltd., Lufthansa AG and South African Airways Ltd.

The airport’s route and business development managers are constantly negotiating with international airlines to expand routes overseas, according to Warren Jones, aviation development manager at Hartsfield-Jackson. He told GlobalAtlanta that they are currently in discussions with several Chinese carriers, including Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd., and a Russian carrier to bring those airlines’ passenger and cargo flights to Atlanta.

The first international flight out of Atlanta’s airport was by Northwest Airlines Corp. on March 20, 1934 from the then-Candler Field to Montreal.

Since its humble beginnings on July 3, 1925 as Candler Field, the airport has gone from being a “hometown hub to a global connector,” with the 1996 Summer Olympic Games playing a large role in bringing international visitors to Atlanta, Mr. de Costa noted. Some 3 million international passengers came through Hartsfield-Jackson in 1996, and that figure is expected to double to 7 million this year.

Hartsfield-Jackson has become the busiest airport in the world, accommodating 89 million travelers last year.

Hartsfield-Jackson still has a way to go, however, compared to other global airports in terms of providing impeccable service to those customers, Mr. de Costa admitted.

He cited a recent airport customer service awards ceremony he attended in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in which not even one European or North American airport was included in the top 10 airports for customer service excellence. Hong Kong International Airport won first place and Seoul, Korea’s airport was No. 2. Singapore was third, Kuala Lumpur fourth and Dubai International Airport No. 5.

“We really have our work cut out for us to reach where we need to be in the global marketplace,” Mr. de Costa said, adding that Hartsfield-Jackson is investing in its infrastructure and implementing various technologies to improve its service.

A $6 billion capital improvement project is underway to modernize the current terminal, which was built in 1980.

A new, fifth runway will open “on time and within budget” in May 2006, Mr. de Costa announced. He added that new technologies like wireless Internet and real-time electronic notification of flight status are planned.

For more information, contact Hartsfield-Jackson’s media relations department at (404) 209-2954 or visit www.atlanta-airport.com