Hartsfield-Jackson again rebids terminal-to-terminal shuttle contract

Passengers board the terminal-to-terminal shuttle at the international terminal on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2023.  (Steve Schaefer/steve.schaefer@ajc.com)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Passengers board the terminal-to-terminal shuttle at the international terminal on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2023. (Steve Schaefer/steve.schaefer@ajc.com)

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport officials have again rebid a contract to run shuttles between the international and domestic terminals.

Long waits for the shuttles generated complaints from passengers this summer as more travelers took trips to Europe and returned home to encounter ground transportation delays after landing.

After complaints about the service, the airport increased the number of shuttles in use during peak periods, according to Hartsfield-Jackson General Manager Balram Bheodari. While there were previously just four shuttles in use, now there are “at least 10-12 shuttles in operation” during the busiest times of the day, according to airport spokesman Andrew Gobeil.

“As a result, passenger wait times are generally between 5 – 15 minutes unless there is roadway congestion,” according to Gobeil.

Hartsfield-Jackson Chief Commercial Officer Jai Ferrell said staff are monitoring the shuttle service to activate a new bus when wait times exceed 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, operator A-National Limousine got a contract extension through this year while the airport continues a lengthy process to rebid the contract — going through multiple delays and redos.

In June 2022, A-National and two other companies submitted proposals to compete for the contract, but all three submissions were “deemed non-responsive” for failure to submit required documentation, meaning they were disqualified.

It wasn’t until this year that the contract was rebid, with five companies submitting proposals in April: A-National, ABM Aviation, LAZ Parking, Horizon Motor Coach and SP Plus Corp.

But then, the city decided to throw out those proposals and rebid the contract. The city held another meeting in late July for companies interested in the contract, and collected a new round of proposals this month.

This time, seven companies threw their hats into the ring: A-National Limousine, ABM Aviation, MTI Limo and Shuttle, RTW Management Inc., Resource Management Systems Inc., SP Plus Corp., and LAZ Parking.

Jaideep Majumdar, chief procurement officer for the city of Atlanta, said the decision to rebid was done “to make sure we create a fair, equitable, transparent and competitive process.”

He said the city fixed technical errors and made changes to the scope of work to reduce the need for change orders.

“The volume of passengers are increasing, so we wanted to capture that piece,” Majumdar said.

Passengers board the terminal-to-terminal shuttle at the international terminal Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2023.  (Steve Schaefer/steve.schaefer@ajc.com)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

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Credit: Steve Schaefer

And, he said, “I didn’t want to create a situation where it gives an unfair advantage to one supplier over another supplier. ... So in order to be fair, transparent and inclusive, we wanted to make sure we start from scratch,” he said.

A-National Limousine has had the contract since 2017, near the end of former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s second term. A-National’s president is Darrell Anderson, a longtime family friend of Reed. The two, along with other investors, owned property together.

Other companies that are competing for the work have held other contracts at the airport.

Ferrell said the request for proposals also “wasn’t clear enough when we first did it,” so some contract terms and management fees were changed.

She said the airport has been working on improving the shuttle service, which is used by international travelers as well as employees and others.

“We’re just trying to see how can you help with the capacity and the number of people that are coming through,” Ferrell said. “If you’ve been on the flight for 14 hours, you don’t want to wait for 45 minutes to get to your vehicle.”

The issue came to a head as travel to Europe soared over the summer and the international terminal became busier with thousands of passengers arriving throughout the day.

In August, U.S.-international passenger counts were up 17% from the same month in 2022, reaching 96.7% of pre-pandemic levels, according to the International Trade Administration.

Congestion on airport roads exacerbates the issues. Ferrell said the airport has also enlisted more police officers to try to manage traffic at the curbside.

“What’s happening now is when the rideshare comes in, they’re staging and they’re waiting on people,” and that contributes to backup, Ferrell said.

Shuttles get caught in the congestion, as the line of passengers waiting to be picked up grows.

And, “It’s not just about the people anymore, it’s what they’re carrying with them — strollers, bags, all those things,” Ferrell said. “We’re even looking at any type of fleet improvements we can make. Do we get bigger buses for more people? .... We’re looking at all of that.”