Skip to main content

The Second Busiest Airport in the World

In 1995, 60 million people flew in and out of Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport making it second only to Chicago’s O’Hare airport. University of Georgia economist Charles Floyd notes that most people are passing through Atlanta on their way to somewhere else. On any given day more than 2,200 flights take off and land, traveling to 150 destinations in the United States, and 30 cities in 17 countries around the world. Flying came into vogue at the turn of the century. Asa Candler built a speedway on 300 acres of cotton fields near the village of Hapeville where popular auto races and flying shows were staged. Cities need good transportation features to prosper and Atlanta was already a railroad hub in the South. Local pilots urged that an airport be built but aviation was thought to be a fad. It was not until 1927 when the city of Atlanta bought the speedway and the federal government made Atlanta an airmail stop that the airport really took off. Through the years new terminals were built and billions were pumped in the economy. Angela Gittens, aviation general manager at Hartsfield, observes that the transportation of people and goods is the essence of commerce. It takes movement to buy and sell. The airport attracts businesses and brings in companies from around the world. Dr. Floyd thinks the airport is one reason the Olympic Games came to Georgia. The airport stimulates the economy in another way–more than 38,000 people work there. Floyd calls it the “multiplier effect” as those people rent or buy nearby houses and shop in the community. The airport’s operating revenue comes from landing fees, concessions, and shops; no taxpayer money is used. The airport that began as a novelty racetrack brings billions of dollars into the state economy.

Teacher tip: Ask students to write a paragraph using information from this Georgia Story describing the impact of the Atlanta airport on Georgia’s economy.