In 2012, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (say that five times fast) saw more than 95 million passengers walk into its jetways and through its hallways. Not only does this impressive statistic make it the busiest airport in the world in terms of number of passengers, it beat runner-up Beijing Capital International Airport by more than 13 million. Hartsfield-Jackson also ranks first in the world in terms of number of plane take-off and landings, with just more than 930,000 in 2012. Interestingly, Beijing is ranked sixth using this metric, likely due to a higher percentage of large planes carrying high numbers of passengers.
But of those more than 95 million passengers entering Hartsfield-Jackson, how many of those people ever leave the airport? I lived in Atlanta for two years while studying city planning at Georgia Tech, and used the airport many times. Since moving from Atlanta in 2006, I would guess I've been back to Atlanta 40 or so times (thanks, Delta), but only three of those visits did I ever make it out of the airport.
Because of my loyalty to Delta, it seems that almost every time I travel I end up coming and going through Atlanta. Located only ten miles from Downtown Atlanta, a great view of the skyline exists for flyers with a view to the north, yet I would bet the far majority are like me and rarely, if ever, make it those last ten miles. Instead, the sense of Atlanta flyers get is from the 6.8 million square foot airport on 4,700 acres bearing the name of two former mayors (William Berry Hartsfield and Maynard Jackson). Packed into the 6.8 million square feet, or 0.24 square miles, of space are more than 100 dining and drinking establishments and nearly 250 shops. Combined, there are more than 1,435 eating restaurants, bars and shops per square mile! Pretty impressive when you consider that there are 65 restaurants per square mile found in the Atlanta region as a whole. The airport also incorporates a mix of local brands and atmosphere to their offerings, giving visitors a sense that they really are in Atlanta. The City's commuter train system also serves the airport, with a MARTA station located right inside the airport for an easy connection to the City (it's shame so many people pass right by it). Speaking of airports reflecting the city they serve, McCarran Airport in Las Vegas most definitely feels like Vegas, with no shortage of slot machines to play while you wait for your flight.
In October I'll be in five different airports within two weeks, and surprisingly none of those include Hartsfield-Jackson. Next month's Europe travels will lead me through Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Zurich Airport and Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport. As part of my travels across Europe, I'm going to focus on the airport, what stores they have, how they are laid out and how well they are integrated into the City's they serve. Stay tuned for my next blog post when I *hopefully* have lots of interesting observations to share.
-- Kevin Fischer, Cities that Work Blog