The Atlanta airport may be the most traveled and efficient in the world, but its leaders are showing they’re still open to learning.
Long a source of training for inbound airport officials, Hartsfield-Jackson is now going out to glean best practices in places like Israel, which is known for its stringent security screening procedures.
Airport leaders visited Tel Aviv in March 2015 on an Atlanta cybersecurity mission. The following month, the Atlanta City Council approved a Sister Airports Program, enabling ATL to quickly sign pacts with counterparts in El Salvador and Cote D’Ivoire.
More than a year later this May, officials from Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport arrived in Atlanta to ink the third of what officials hope will become an even broader series of bilateral agreements between Hartsfield-Jackson and international partners.
“This agreement marks a new era in cooperation between two dynamic airports and two vibrant cities,” interim General Manager Roosevelt Council said while seated alongside Managing Director Shmuel Zakay of Ben Gurion. “We look forward to cultivating a wonderful relationship with our colleagues in Tel Aviv.”
Mr. Council stepped into the general manager role after the recent firing of Miguel Southwell, who was a strong proponent of sister-airport ties and international routes. Mr. Southwell, who has threatened to sue the city over his termination, has served as president of the Airports Council International Fund, which underwrites the training of airport leaders in the developing world.
At a recent State of the Airport summit, Mr. Southwell also said the airport would do its best to bring back air service between Atlanta and Tel Aviv, a route that Delta Air Lines Inc. ended in 2011.
The agreement, which went into effect upon the signing, calls for both sides to promote that direct air link, as well as share ideas on security, passenger and cargo issues. It also asks for each to create a working group that will facilitate exchange visits. The pact is non-binding and doesn’t require any city funding.
Ambassador Judith Varnai-Shorer, consul general of Israel in Atlanta, attended the signing at the Atlanta airport’s international terminal.