Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport reached a major milestone with the arrival of a Delta flight from Gulfport-Biloxi on Sunday, and both local and national media took notice. Under a water cannon salute provided by Atlanta Fire and Rescue vehicles, and in front of hundreds of guests, dignitaries and fellow passengers, Flight 1256 made history.
The Delta Air Lines flight from Gulfport, Mississippi carried ATL’s 100 millionth passenger in 2015, marking the first time ever an airport served more than 100 million passengers in a single year. “I’m happy I could be part of it,” said 35 year-old Larry Kendrick, 24 hours after he was tabbed as ATL’s 100 millionth passenger. “I’m still surprised. I’ve flown in and out of Atlanta quite often, and I enjoy it.”
“Today, we are making aviation history,” Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed told the crowd moments before the flight arrived. “As we move into 2016, it is our commitment to maintain our position as the world’s most travelled airport, the most efficient, and soon we will start competing to be the most sustainable.”
“What a year it has been,” ATL General Manager Miguel Southwell said. He cited both the growth of Atlanta as a destination and a strong partnership between ATL and Delta Air Lines as the main explanation for the five percent increase in traffic over the previous year. Officials projected a two percent increase at the start of 2015. “Without Delta,” he added, “we simply would not be standing here today.”
As part of the celebration, Mr. Kendrick was given a 2015 Nissan Altima from Nissan of Union City; two Delta One round-trip tickets good for any destination in the world; a $500 Thanks Again gift card; and a set of wireless headphones from InMotion Entertainment group.
Mr. Kendrick, an industrial construction worker traveling from his home in Biloxi to a job in Iowa, was thrilled. “My past two vehicles have been Nissans, I like them,” he said, adding that his Delta tickets may be used for an overseas flight. “I’ve seen a lot of the United States, so Australia is definitely in the mix. Dubai does sound pretty good, too. I don’t know – it’s up in the air,” he said, laughing.
ATL officials created an algorithm based on actual passenger numbers from January through November, and projected passenger numbers in December. Accounting firm KPMG validated the algorithm and had representatives attend the event early Sunday morning.