How the airport sees the world of new possible routes.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is bringing back an incentive program designed to lure international airlines on new routes, prioritizing Africa and Asia. 

The program will provide $250,000 for any new carrier (those that haven’t served the airport in a year) starting a yearlong international nonstop flight to a new destination, while those bringing flights to the above regions will receive $500,000. The amounts are an upper limit allocated only to match the airline’s own marketing spend. 

Existing carriers can bring back a destination not served in more than two years and receive $25,000 in matching funds, with $100,000 offered for cities in Africa and Asia. 

As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution first reported, the Atlanta City Council’s transportation committee voted last week in favor of the proposal, which allocates $1.2 million per year for the program over five years (totaling $6 million over the period) and awards the money on a first-come, first-served basis. 

The promotional funds are accompanied by additional in-airport advertising worth up to $500,000 on the airport’s signage and screens as well as TV ads. 

The move to reinstall the incentives, last offered from 2014-19, comes just as Ethiopian Airlines is set to start its new nonstop route from Atlanta to Addis Ababa this month, with a brief stop in Ireland on the return. (The incentives include a specific carveout to the nonstop rule to address such a refueling stop.)

According to a document submitted to the city, the airport’s next long-haul flight targets are two routes to India (Mumbai on Delta Air Lines and Delhi on Air India), two to China (Beijing on Delta or Hainan Airlines, Hong Kong on Delta or Cathay Pacific), one to Iceland on IcelandAir or Play and one to Mexico City on Volaris or VivaAerobus. 

The airport is currently “courting” routes to Toronto; Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; Casablanca, Morocco; Dublin on AerLingus, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago; Taipei and Kigali, Rwanda. 

Analysis is being conducted on new routes to Tokyo (non-Delta flights to Narita Airport) in Asia and to the cities of Abuja, Nigeria, Entebbe, Uganda; and Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa. 

Cargo flights also qualify for the incentives, with the priority region shifting to Asia and South America. 

New carriers with year-round freighter services to the above regions will receive matching promotional funds up to $500,000, while all other areas of the world will get $250,000. 

New routes from existing carriers will receive $100,000 for South America and Asia flights or $25,000 to other regions. 

According to the GPB, the airport currently has flights serving 69 international destinations, with Delta scheduled to bring back long-suspended flights to Nice, France, and Edinburgh, Scotland, this month. Delta recently re-launched a nonstop flight from Atlanta to Tel Aviv. 

While international traffic through March 2023 is up 42 percent over last year, it remains down nearly 10 percent from the first quarter of 2019, the year before the pandemic grounded international passenger flights at the world’s busiest airport. 

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...