New airport chief has flurry of tasks ahead

The new boss at Atlanta's airport inherited a list of projects stacked up like airliners during a thunderstorm.

Louis Miller, the new general manager at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, is planning for a new international terminal, anticipating a merger involving a major tenant and eying how to shorten security lines during peak times -- such as the holidays.

Miller, in an interview Tuesday with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, said no major service issues have jumped out at him so far.

"I've walked around the airport dozens of times," said Miller. "I've tried to approach it as a passenger. So far, I think it works pretty well." One thing he plans to study is a possible cell-phone waiting area for people waiting in their cars to pick up passengers.

Miller, who formerly ran Tampa International, has been in the Hartsfield-Jackson post for about six weeks. He inherits a number of projects in the works and more that lie ahead. They include:

-- The international terminal, which has been under construction since 2008 and is scheduled to open in 2012. Miller has already been involved in the city's effort to move ahead with bond financing needed to complete construction, set to close next week. In addition, the airport plans to issue a request for proposals later this year for concessions at the new complex. And Miller said the airport is planning for a shuttle to transport passengers between the international terminal and the main terminal.

-- Miller said he also plans to issue a request for proposals sometime after the first of next year for a controversial airport advertising contract. Clear Channel has held it but unsuccessful competitor Corey Airport Services sued and won a $17.5 million judgment in July.

-- Miller said he is closely examining the security process to consider whether anything should be done to shorten lines during peak times, and he plans to meet with TSA's federal security director in Atlanta to discuss the matter.

-- Southwest Airlines' planned entrance into the Atlanta market through the acquisition of AirTran Airways brings a new national carrier to the airport. Miller said Southwest will bring more air cargo to Atlanta because Southwest carries air cargo while AirTran does not. He also said he thinks Southwest can have  up to 275 or 300 flights on AirTran's existing 32 gates, depending on how it decides to use AirTran's fleet.

Meanwhile, Miller has two vacancies to fill at the airport: a deputy general manager to replace Mario Diaz, who left earlier this year after former general manager Ben DeCosta announced his departure, and a chief financial officer to replace Milton Castillo, who leaves in January.

But Miller said his biggest challenge will be managing long term planning to determine "how the airport (is) prepared to handle itself 10 years from now, 15 years from now, 20 years from now."