Representatives from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce are currently touring parts of Asia and the Middle East to solidify existing agreements with airlines and to attract other airlines to the Atlanta airport and region.

The three-person delegation first stopped in Hong Kong for the Air Freight Asia 2007 conference, where they met with representatives from Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd., the Hong Kong-based carrier that began daily freight flights to Atlanta a little over a week ago.

The Hong Kong trip was aimed partly at thanking Cathay Pacific for the airline’s recent investment in the region, Warren Jones, aviation development manager at Hartsfield-Jackson, told GlobalAtlanta in a telephone interview from Hong Kong.

“Cathay Pacific is the fastest-growing cargo carrier in the history of Hartsfield-Jackson,” he said, referring to the quick process that had Cathay Pacific increasing its four Atlanta freighter flights per week to six on July 25, and then to daily service by Aug. 25. Mr. Jones added that the airline’s increased activity will have a $25 million economic impact on Atlanta and the region.

Another objective of the delegation’s involvement in the Hong Kong conference is to maintain good relationships with other carriers like Cargo Italia, which has been negotiating with Hartsfield-Jackson for more than a year, Mr. Jones said.

The delegation also had pre-arranged meetings with India-based Jet Airways Ltd. and a Shanghai-based airline, both of which have “aggressive expansion plans,” according to Jeff Pearse, director of marketing and business development for Hartsfield-Jackson.

Hartsfield-Jackson is one of only three or four North American airports represented at the conference, which features thousands of professionals from all sides of the aviation industry. Hartsfield is also the only one to have brought a representative from a local chamber of commerce to provide a “regional chamber of commerce angle,” said Mr. Pearse.

Mr. Pearse, who lived and worked in the aviation industry in Hong Kong for five years, said that while he and Mr. Jones are taking advantage of every opportunity to promote passenger flights between Atlanta and Asia, the main goal is to get cargo flights to Atlanta.

While Delta Air Lines Inc. operates the majority of the flights in and out of Hartsfield, the Atlanta-based carrier mostly focuses on passenger flights, adding cargo only after loading passengers’ luggage.

“There’s nothing like getting a fully dedicated freighter,” he said during the same call from Hong Kong. “You’d be surprised at the amount of cargo manufactured in Atlanta but trucked to different gateways in the U.S.” for export.

Mr. Pearse was positive about the prospects of global growth in the both the passenger and cargo sectors of aviation. Bigger, longer-range aircraft are creating opportunities not possible in previous years.

“This is a unique time in history, and aircraft and aviation technology is finally catching up with market demand,” he said.

Cathay Pacific has placed an order for 23 long-range aircraft that when they are all delivered five years from now will enhance the Hong Kong-Atlanta connection.

At the three-day conference, Mr. Pearse and Mr. Jones made presentations about Hartsfield and the city of Atlanta, which they both said is well known in the aviation world.

“Atlanta is a catalyst for major economic activity,” Mr. Pearse said. “(Carriers) wouldn’t choose to fly to Atlanta because it’s the busiest in the world, but because the airport supports a growing and thriving economy.”

On the current trip, the delegation plans to stop in Singapore for a meeting with Singapore Airlines Ltd. before moving on to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to meet with Emirates Airlines.

GlobalAtlanta will be covering the trip by periodically speaking by phone with Mr. Jones, Mr. Pearse and Bob Pertierra, vice president for logistics industry development at the Metro Atlanta Chamber. Story Contacts, Links and Related Stories Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Herschel Grangent 404-530-2398