Middle Eastern cargo airline to start at Hartsfield

A Middle Eastern cargo airline is expected to begin two weekly flights into Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Nov. 2, according to a spokesman for Atlanta’s airport.

Al Snedeker said Qatar Airways’ scheduled cargo service is estimated to have a $12 million annual economic impact on metro Atlanta, and will develop 20 direct and indirect jobs. The airline is based in Doha, Qatar.

“I am pleased to welcome Qatar Airways to Atlanta,” said Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. “Georgia was the 10th-largest exporter in the United States to the Middle East in 2010,” Reed said. “This new trade lane enhances the metropolitan Atlanta region’s global competitiveness by enabling local companies to gain increased market access to the Middle East.”

The airline will operate Boeing 777 freighters en route to Atlanta and other stops, including Houston, Texas; Luxembourg, Luxembourg, and Doha, Qatar, airport officials said. Qatar Airways will move imports, such as textiles, manufactured goods, poultry products and high tech medical equipment, they added.

“The addition of Qatar Airways will further enhance our airport’s reputation as a leading cargo airport,” said Louis Miller, aviation general manager at Hartsfield-Jackson. “Hartsfield-Jackson offers a geographically desirable location for cargo carriers and freight forwarders that want to expand their global networks at lower operating costs.”

According to Snedeker, Metro Atlanta Chamber statistics show that Georgia exports to the Middle East in 2010 were worth almost $1.4 billion. The dollar amount is an increase of 6 percent from 2009, and nearly double the amount in 2005.

“Qatar Airways’ decision to begin air cargo service to Atlanta furthers our position as one of the world’s premier logistics hubs,” said Bob Pertierra, vice president of supply chain and advanced manufacturing for the Metro Atlanta Chamber.

Snedeker added that Qatar Airways was among the airlines Atlanta Mayor Reed met at The International Air Cargo Association’s Air Cargo Forum in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, last year.

Airport officials offered no comment about considerations they have given to issues or concerns related to post-9/11 security challenges, particularly in the air travel and cargo industry.

They kept the focus on the economic impact of the new agreement, which they expect will boost cargo operations at the airport, which rose more than 17 percent last year, compared to 2009. During that time, the average North American cargo operation’s growth was 13.2 percent, officials said.

From January to June, the airport transported 328,930 metric tons of cargo, said Snedeker. Both international and domestic cargo rose by 2 percent during that period, over 2010’s cargo traffic, he said.