Atlanta City Council votes on raising concessions price caps

November 19, 2021 Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport: Travelers were abound on Friday, Nov.19,2021 at the domestic side of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport as the Airport is preparing for an expected 2.22 million passengers for the Thanksgiving travel period starting this Saturday and running through the Monday after the holiday, a rebound from last year when passenger counts were down 40% during the period. The holiday rush will be one of the biggest tests for airlines, which have struggled with staffing shortages and occasional operational meltdowns this year. ÒWe expect it to be very busy and even a bit frenetic at times,Ó said Priceline CEO Brett Keller during a Washington Post Live event this week. With hotels and airlines trying to re-staff after pandemic cutbacks, ÒitÕs going to be a bit crazy this year.Ó Wednesday before the holiday and the Sunday afterward are expected to be the busiest days of the Thanksgiving period, according to travel experts.
AAA predicts 1.6 million people in Georgia will travel for Thanksgiving, including more than 108,000 taking flights. That will bring total traveler counts to a level just 3% shy of 2019 levels, with airline passenger counts within 13% of 2019 levels. Domestic leisure air travel has almost completely recovered to 2019 levels, according to AAA and travel experts. Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines expects to handle as many as 5.6 million passengers from this Friday through the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, nearly three times the 2.2 million it saw during the holiday period last year but still short of the 6.3 million for Thanksgiving 2019. ( John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

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November 19, 2021 Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport: Travelers were abound on Friday, Nov.19,2021 at the domestic side of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport as the Airport is preparing for an expected 2.22 million passengers for the Thanksgiving travel period starting this Saturday and running through the Monday after the holiday, a rebound from last year when passenger counts were down 40% during the period. The holiday rush will be one of the biggest tests for airlines, which have struggled with staffing shortages and occasional operational meltdowns this year. ÒWe expect it to be very busy and even a bit frenetic at times,Ó said Priceline CEO Brett Keller during a Washington Post Live event this week. With hotels and airlines trying to re-staff after pandemic cutbacks, ÒitÕs going to be a bit crazy this year.Ó Wednesday before the holiday and the Sunday afterward are expected to be the busiest days of the Thanksgiving period, according to travel experts. AAA predicts 1.6 million people in Georgia will travel for Thanksgiving, including more than 108,000 taking flights. That will bring total traveler counts to a level just 3% shy of 2019 levels, with airline passenger counts within 13% of 2019 levels. Domestic leisure air travel has almost completely recovered to 2019 levels, according to AAA and travel experts. Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines expects to handle as many as 5.6 million passengers from this Friday through the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, nearly three times the 2.2 million it saw during the holiday period last year but still short of the 6.3 million for Thanksgiving 2019. ( John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Soon, travelers may pay more at the restaurants and shops in Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

The Atlanta City Council transportation committee on Wednesday voted in favor of raising the cap on what concessionaires can charge. The resolution next goes to the full city council for consideration.

Hartsfield-Jackson shops and restaurants are prohibited from setting prices more than 10% higher than what’s charged at equivalent street locations. The new measure would raise the limit to 15% higher.

The city of Atlanta, which owns the airport, allows Hartsfield Jackson businesses to charge more to cover the higher cost of doing business there, with the facility’s security restrictions and environmental rules. Because of the pandemic, expenses and supply chain woes have increased, according to the airport.

Some of the businesses are paying higher wages to compete for talent. Still, staffing shortages have made it a struggle to reopen some businesses at the airport.

“We have done extensive research. ... We think this is the right thing to do to ensure the financial solvency of our concessions partners,” Hartsfield-Jackson general manager Balram Bheodari told city council members.

Raising the price cap also could benefit the airport. Higher prices paid by travelers could translate into higher rent paid by concessionaires, since rent is based on a percentage of gross sales.

Documents submitted to city council also say that if the price cap increase is not approved, some airport tenants will not be able to move forward with investing in new locations.

City councilman Andre Dickens, who was elected as the next mayor of Atlanta on Tuesday, raised the idea of lifting the airport concessions price cap last year before the pandemic hit. He said he wanted to consider the increase so airport vendors could pay their workers a minimum wage of $15 an hour.

If concessionaires “get more money, they could pay more money,” Dickens said in February 2020. “This won’t affect the Atlantans as much as it will affect the travelers. And travelers tend to have disposable income, business income, et cetera.”

But, with prices are up everywhere, the higher percentage price cap could compound price increases at the airport.