Trans-Atlantic travel is so taken for granted these days, it’s sometimes hard to remember that crossing the pond was once a decidedly more uncertain ordeal.
With Delta Air Lines celebrating its 35th year of flights to Germany last week, we asked veteran international attorney Tom Harrold to recall his first flight to Frankfurt, the German city that launched Delta’s now-extensive route network in the country.
“We were all excited about Delta going international, and I just hoped our good old Southern boys who were the pilots could find the Frankfurt Airport and speak German to the air traffic controllers,” Mr. Harrold said of his first trip in 1982. “Only later did I find out that English is the universal language of air traffic control, but I was still concerned about the Germans understanding our Southern drawls.”
Apparently the Germans liked what they heard: Now Georgia boasts nearly 500 facilities operated by 274 German affiliates, and the country’s reach is spreading around the Southeast in a big way. A constellation of auto plants surround Georgia – Volkswagen in Tennessee, BMW in South Carolina and Mercedes-Benz in Alabama – giving suppliers and headquarters operations incentive to set up in the region.
Delta still plays a key role in linking the region with Europe’s largest economy. Stuttgart, where the airline operates a popular nonstop, happens to be the hometown automotive firms including Porsche, which has its North American headquarters in Atlanta. Porsche Cars North America CEO Detlev Von Platen has said that he uses the flight once every few weeks.
“There is no question that the Delta air service has helped immensely to increase the number of German companies doing business in Georgia,” Mr. Harrold, an attorney at Miller & Martin PLLC who has built a significant base of German clients, told Airport City via email.
The Frankfurt flight’s capacity has grown from 218 at launch to 245 passengers, and the airline offers daily access from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Munich and Düsseldorf. Delta also offers direct flights to Frankfurt daily from New York-JFK and Detroit.
Delta isn’t the only airline that has seen the potential. Lufthansa German Airlines also offers daily nonstop flights to Germany from Atlanta, competing less on direct access to German cities and more on the strength of its hub to reach points beyond. For instance, Lufthansa allows travelers to reach multiple cities in India from Atlanta with one stop in Frankfurt.