Amid a trip centered on the start of new Delta Air Lines Inc. service from Atlanta to Shanghai, the world’s busiest airport has reached a deal to deepen aviation exchanges with the dynamic Chinese business hub.
Flanked by Georgia leaders traveling on a business delegation, officials from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Monday signed a memorandum of understanding to build cooperation and share best practices with the Shanghai Airport Authority, which runs both Pudong International Airport (where Delta flies) and Hongqiao International Airport, the cross-town hub attached to a major high-speed rail station and focused more on domestic flights.
The deal is renewable after five years. It will focus on growing mutual passenger and cargo traffic and sharing information on airport management. That includes divulging traffic statistics, plans for infrastructure development and marketing research. One goal will be to establish a mechanism for technical exchanges, with both sides already having committed to hosting “educational visits.”
Not only is the Atlanta airport the busiest in the world with nearly 104 million passengers in 2017, but it’s also been ranked most efficient for more than 20 years running. The airport is often seen as a model internationally and shares its technical expertise through participation in bodies like Airports Council International. Foreign airport delegations come to Atlanta multiple times per year for targeted training sessions.
Elliott Paige, Hartsfield-Jackson’s director of air service development, said he’s excited by Delta’s China passenger flight, but he’s also keenly interested in growing cargo service from the country.
Cargo may happen outside the limelight, but it’s still vital for the airport’s role as an economic engine, he told Global Atlanta.
“We get a lot of cargo already from China, but once we get this agreement we’re able to talk together on how we can boost trade,” Mr. Paige said. “Cargo is always the hidden cousin, but it’s no less important.”
This isn’t the first time Harstfield-Jackson has linked up with Shanghai. Pudong airport played host to one edition of the Sustainable Airports Area seminar, a yearly event launched through a collaboration between Atlanta and the Paris airports region. Shanghai was invited to be the third partner in the relationship.
The setting within Shanghai was also significant for the continuity of the Georgia-China relationship: The Hongqiao State Guest House, located near the airport of that name, was also the site of another MOU signing between Gov. Nathan Deal and then-Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng in 2011. First reported by Global Atlanta, which had a reporter with the delegation at the time, the deal was meant to spur economic exchanges.
See more from that trip:
Mr. Han, who during that 2011 meeting with Mr. Deal played up Coca-Cola’s investment in China and the logistics connections between the ports of Shanghai and Georgia, now sits on the powerful nine-member Politburo Standing Committee, the top decision-making body for the Communist Party of China.