Airport hosts appreciation lunch for cargo employees

It was a cloudy and windy Tuesday afternoon in October, but cargo employees managed to meet outdoors for an event on South Cargo Drive in Atlanta, at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

The City of Atlanta's Department of Aviation, at the world's busiest airport, recently hosted Cargo Appreciation Day for employees with a variety of companies, according to Warren Jones, aviation development manager at the airport.

Cargo employees were treated to lunch from Sonny's Real Pit Bar-B-Q.

Employees representing such companies as CargoLux Airlines, Cathay Pacific Cargo and China Airlines, were in attendance, Jones said.

He said this is the second year the Department of Aviation has hosted the event for cargo employees at the airport. "These are the people that make the Atlanta airport what it is for the cargo industry," he said.

Jim Cronin, sales manager for Continental Airlines Cargo, said during his 16 years of employment at the airport, he has seen the cargo business grow. "Hartsfield-Jackson has been a pioneer for full cargo operations," he said.

Lanette Copeland, of FedEx Trade Networks, at Hartsfield-Jackson, said she enjoyed the event and the food that was provided. "It's encouraging to know that they are growing the import product that we do," she said.

According to Jones, without the hard work and effort of these employees, the airport would not have achieved Air Cargo World magazine's "Award of Excellence" for North American cargo operations, under the category of airports that handled 500,000, to 900,000 tons per year. Nor would it have achieved Air Cargo Week's prestigious World Air Cargo Award for "Airport of the Year" for a second year in a row.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed was in attendance during the event, along with Louis Miller, aviation general manager at Hartsfield-Jackson. Reed said it is important to thank the employees for helping the airport achieve its successes in the cargo area.

"I think it's important to stop and say, ‘thank you,' to the airport employees and air cargo industry workers who work so hard every day to improve and expand cargo operations at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport," said Reed, in an e-mailed statement.

According to Hartsfield-Jackson's 2009 Economic Impact Study report, there were 10,200 cargo-related jobs that were supported through manufacturers and agricultural industries that ship products air, through the airport. These jobs generated more than $860 million in wages and salaries.

Reed said he has many goals for Hartsfield-Jackson's cargo operations. "I want to see cargo operations increase at the airport and we're already making progress in achieving that goal," he said. "We have seen a 22 percent increase overall during the first seven months of this year, and a 35 percent increase specifically for international cargo, over 2009. Long term, I want to see Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport recognized as not only the number one passenger airport in the world, but also the number one airport for cargo operations in the world."

Currently, said Reed, business opportunities are actively being pursued to improve air cargo operations. For example, said the mayor, the airport welcomed Asiana Airlines, from Seoul, South Korea, in September, an air carrier that will have four weekly cargo flights to Hartsfield-Jackson.

Reed said Atlanta's airport has a number of positive attributes to draw potential air cargo customers from around the world. "I think one of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport's strongest attributes is its location," he said. "The airport is geographically desirable for both cargo carriers and freight forwarders who want to expand their global networks, with lower operation costs. Companies can readily connect with air, road and railway transportation systems in Atlanta to the entire southeastern United States.

"In addition, it is close to the Port of Savannah, the fastest-growing port in the United States."