Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is taking a first step toward eventual construction of Concourse G, which would include gates to handle more international flights.
The airport on Monday released a 254-page draft environmental assessment on plans for its eighth concourse, as well as two new cargo buildings.
Concourse G would add 10 international gates to the world’s busiest airport, and is expected to be completed around 2026. It would be on the east end of the current line of concourses A through F and connect to the international terminal completed in 2012.
The new concourse is part of Hartsfield-Jackson’s master plan for renovation and expansion over the next 20 years. That plan also includes the possibility of building concourses H and I in the future.
Demand from airlines to operate more flights into Atlanta will continue whether the airport expands or not, Hartsfield-Jackson officials say.
Without the new concourse, “increasingly poor levels of service will result for passenger airline and air cargo operations,” according to the draft environmental assessment.
Tom Nissalke, Hartsfield-Jackson’s director of planning, said the draft found that environmental effects of the expansion will not be significant — a determination that would allow the projects to move forward.
“Actually, air quality will be improved as a result,” Nissalke said. “If we don’t build these additional gates, what happens is as demand continues to grow, some airplanes will not be able to use a gate” and will have to park on the tarmac away from the gate, with passengers bussed to and from terminals. That would generate more emissions, according to the airport.
That happened when Qatar Airways was not able to access a gate that could handle its super-jumbo A380 jet at Hartsfield-Jackson for its inaugural Atlanta-Doha flight. That was because Delta Air Lines was using the only gates that could accommodate the A380.
The airport must move a number of buildings to make way for Concourse G, including the west half of Delta’s cargo operation, Gate Gourmet flight kitchens, aviation maintenance buildings and a fire station. Some of those facilities will be moved to an area just west of a post office that sits west of I-75 near the international terminal. To enable that, three Georgia Power substations will have to be relocated. “That’s also going to be a big challenge,” Nissalke said.
Nissalke said the prime departure time for European flights is 4 to 7 p.m., and if the airport does not add gates, more international flights will depart at night, slightly increasing noise at night.
More cargo flights would also increase noise at night, and the cargo buildings the airport plans to construct would help handle those flights. Nissalke said demand drives cargo activity, so “the activity is going to be the same with or without the presence of the cargo buildings.”