The Georgia state legislature attempted but failed to wrest control of Hartsfield-Jackson International Jackson airport away from the City of Atlanta, but state officials warned that they would continue to oversee the airport and may try again later.
Doing so, however, would threaten the transportation infrastructure critical to Atlantan and Georgian economies.
The threat to Atlanta’s control over the airport is particularly disappointing because of Georgia’s rich history with transportation. Atlanta was originally created as a railroad stop, even nicknamed “Terminus.” Atlanta later grew as it became home to Hartsfield-International Airport, an airport which serves over 100 million passengers a year. Simply put, Atlanta and Georgia would not be the rich, cosmopolitan places they are today without their value as transportation hubs.
Some legislators, mainly Republicans, have expressed concerns that corruption in the Atlanta government could enable airline companies like Delta to gain influence over decisions. To some extent, these are valid concerns. In 2017, for example, airline companies donated over $287,000 to Atlanta mayoral candidates.
Indeed, Georgia has its own share of ethical problems. In 2015, the Center for Public Integrity gave the state a D- in its state integrity investigation, including F’s in public access to information, political financing, executive accountability, and lobbying disclosure. The state’s poor lobbying disclosure rating (46th overall) is especially notable as it suggests that the state government would also be prone to donations from airline companies.
Further, despite the allegations of corruption, Hartsfield-Jackson is performing excellently. As many Georgians proudly know, the airport is the busiest in the world with more than 104 million passengers in 2017, and the Air Transport Research Society named it the most efficient airport in the world in 2017, marking the 14th time it received this distinction.
If the state were to take over Hartsfield-Jackson, the airport’s daily operations could be changed, possibly throwing its efficiency into flux. A decline in the airport would hurt Atlanta’s status as a regional hub for economic activity and could have ripple effects throughout the Georgian economy. The airport creates around 450,000 jobs in Metro-Atlanta and generates more than $64 billion in business revenue.
Although Atlanta is far from perfect and should work to reduce its corruption, a pointless state take over of the city’s prized airport would simply create more problems and fail to address the main problem. Instead, the state should work to implement stronger anti-corruption laws and leave the airport to continue to flourish.