Atlanta is home to the single busiest airport in the world, moving nearly 104 million passengers annually. With the city’s convenient placement and history as the birthplace of Delta Airlines, Hartsfield-Jackson has stayed the world’s most popular airport for 19 straight years.
As with any such nexus of human activity, however, ensuring safety is a crucial and sizeable challenge that isn’t always met.
The Most Hazardous Travel Conditions Are on the Ground
Whatever our instincts may tell us, flying is statistically far safer than other forms of conveyance. However, airline passengers must make their way through several of these other conveyances on their way to and from flights, and therein lies the danger.
From the moment travelers begin their journey using the services of Hartsfield-Jackson, they’re affected by the airport’s attention to on-the-ground safety (or lack thereof). This was certainly the case for the 16 passengers who were injured in a shuttle bus crash, involving faulty brakes and an inadequately licensed driver.
Once on the Hartsfield-Jackson premises themselves, most passengers are funneled through the escalators, which are responsible for numerous severe injuries, many involving children. It’s easy for articles of clothing, especially small and flexible children’s shoes, to become lodged in the metal teeth and drag body parts into the works.
The airport’s response to this problem has been less than encouraging, ranging from warning messages about “shoe accidents” to snail-paced renovations. In 2013, two firefighters were injured when one of the aging escalators caught fire, just two months after a partial round of upgrades.
Naturally, the moving walkways pose similar risks of snags, falls, and trampling in the thick crowds.
Finally, assuming you reach it, the “Plane Train,” which carries travelers between gates, has extremely limited seating and handholds. It also accelerates and decelerates abruptly, posing a fall risk that can cause serious injury, especially for older passengers. Yet the recent upgrades are focused on increasing volume, rather than addressing safety concerns.
Why Is the World’s Most Successful Airport So Far Behind in Maintenance?
Hartsfield-Jackson is the busiest airport in the world, and proud of it. It’s a local status symbol, closely connected with tourist dollars. The airport’s management has been through multiple changes and scandals, with careers allegedly made and broken over the allocation of multi-billion dollar construction contracts for the site.
The full reasons for the management shake-ups are, of course, debatable. Regardless, it’s hard to dispute that keeping Hartsfield-Jackson the busiest airport is important to many people, and that it hasn’t maintained its status so far by focusing on quality over quantity.
An electrical fire in 2017 brought the airport’s true precariousness to light — or rather dark — when it damaged both the main and backup power systems, leaving the whole airport dark for eleven hours. Airport infrastructure expert, Megan Ryerson, argued that the incident should be a reminder to focus on making operations “as reliable and predictable as possible, rather than focusing on growth.”
What to Do If You’ve Been Injured
With the gap closing on Hartsfield-Jackson’s “world’s busiest” title, there’s no telling if they’ll turn attention toward safety and stability any time soon. At the Stoddard Firm, we have successfully recovered millions from the owners and operators of the Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson Airport. If you’ve been injured on the premises, seek medical attention and reach out to the Stoddard Firm for a free consultation. We can likely help.