Last updated: 11:34 AM ET, Fri June 03 2016

ATL General Manager Fired Amid TSA Issues and Major Renovation

Airlines & Airports | Paul Thompson | June 03, 2016

ATL General Manager Fired Amid TSA Issues and Major Renovation

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, for better or worse, is an airport that is intimately familiar to most frequent travelers. And in spite of being the world’s busiest airport, ATL has not been immune to complaints related to the recent nationwide security snarl. The city’s mayor, Kasim Reed, removed Hartsfield’s General Manager Miguel Southwell from his post, as the airport endured one of the busiest travel weeks of the year, and kicked off a $6 billion renovation.

READ MORE: Atlanta Testing New Automated Security Lanes

The Atlanta Constitution Journal reported that crowds at ATL had become so bad, that Southwell began marketing the airport at “the world’s most-traveled” rather than “world’s busiest,” because the word “busy” has negativity associated with it. Earlier this year, Southwell had petitioned the TSA to improve the screening process at ATL, threatening to privatize security if improvements were not made. Mayor Reed echoed the sentiment. Security lines were known to take up to an hour.

Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines took matters into its own hands, and opened two new ultra efficient screening lanes in Atlanta, which is Delta’s global hub and home of its corporate offices. The lines at the renovated South checkpoint feature an automated screening system, with larger trays and a longer conveyor belt that allows more passengers to prep for screening simultaneously. The construction of the updated checkpoint was itself a contributor to the lengthy lines.

In 2015, ATL became the first airport in the world to host 100 million passengers in a single year, though the majority of those passengers only visited Atlanta for connecting flights. The airport is also embarking upon a fifteen-year expansion project, which will include the addition of a seventh passenger concourse, an airport hotel and a sixth runway. The biggest headache for passengers will be the teardown and reconstruction of parking structures, which will take years and require passengers to park remotely and take shuttles to the terminal.

The project is expected to cost $6 billion, but when has an airport project ever come in on budget and on time? In fact, the hotel project was supposed to have broken ground last year, but it has not begun. Delta recently expanded its lease agreement with the city for an additional 20 years.

READ MORE: Delta Gate-Blocks Qatar’s Inaugural Atlanta Flight

Southwell took the position in 2014, after being deputy airport director in Miami. He had also worked at ATL previously from 1990 to 2001 in various managerial roles. Roosevelt Council has been announced as Southwell’s interim replacement. Council has been deputy General Manager at ATL since 2012, responsible for the airport’s treasury operations, procurement, accounting, budgeting, financial analysis and forecasting.

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