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American Airlines celebrates 25 years at Hartsfield-Jackson

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

American Airlines celebrated 25 years of passenger service out of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Thursday at one of its departure gates, with cake, coffee, popcorn, balloons, giveaways and a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Airline officials were almost ready to cut the red-white-and-blue ribbon at the similarly colored balloon arch at the boarding ramp of a flight to Dallas, when someone pointed out an important item was missing.

"Ladies and gentlemen, being that we are in an airport, we don't have a pair of scissors, yet. We are trying to get the [Transportation Security Administration] officials at the security checkpoint to let us bring them through," said Juan Liscano, general manager of American Airlines' station in Atlanta.

The airline's officials were quickly able to get a pair of scissors to cut the ribbon, and eight employees, dressed in old flight attendant uniforms, strode down the ramp to a flight of stairs. The stairs took them outside, where they lined up in front of a retro American Airlines "AstroJet" and had their pictures taken by the media and representatives of the company's corporate communications department.

The passengers, who were scheduled to take a flight to Dallas, then boarded the plane, which was pressed into service for the special day.

"The fact that the airline has kept a presence at this airport is a sign of American's commitment to the community, and this market," Liscano said.

The airline transferred Cookie Farrell, now a retired corporate sales manager, to Atlanta from Tampa when passenger service began in 1983. She said employees were not sure how long the airline would last at Hartsfield-Jackson in the early days, because it was sharing space with several other airlines on concourse "D" in the early 1980s.

American only had three flights departing from Atlanta at first, and all of the flights went to Dallas. Now the airline has about 30 flights leaving Atlanta every day, and the flights go to Dallas, Chicago, Miami, New York City and St. Louis.

American also has its own space now on the "T" terminal.

Farrell believed the company's ability to thrive in Atlanta was the result of the people of Atlanta having faith in the airline.

"It's interesting to be in a city with Delta [Air Lines] and survive," Farrell said. "We have had a lot of loyal customers in this city and they'd allowed us to stay here and prosper."

Ray Robinson, a member of American Airlines' board of directors, who lives in Atlanta, attended the ceremony as well, and called it "a milestone celebration of where we were, to where we are today."

"American Airlines continues to be committed to Atlanta," Robinson said. "It allows us to serve this part of the Southeast. This city is growing by leaps and bounds. As the city grows, our customer base continues to grow."