A Bittersweet Goodbye

Balram “B” Bheodari

I look forward to July 1, 2024, with a profound sense of achievement. On that day, as I had planned nearly a year ago, I will retire from my role as general manager of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL). After more than three years in this demanding position, leaving the incredible people who operate ATL and form our “One Team” will be a bittersweet moment. I am forever indebted to this remarkable team, whose dedication and hard work have enriched my life and taught me invaluable lessons.

Balram “B” Bheodari is retiring as general manager of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International after a total of more than two decades at the airport. One of several notable achievements during his executive tenure was leading the airport through the challenging COVID-19 pandemic, from drawdown to resumption of its expansive operations.

My history at ATL is unique. I began 22 years ago in Operations and eventually ascended to the airport’s top position. As I reflect on my two decades of service to the city of Atlanta and ATL, I ask for your indulgence in sharing a few parting thoughts.

“Endeavors succeed or fail because of the people involved,” Gen. Colin Powell wisely said. He could not have been more correct: ATL’s success is a testament to its 63,000 employees, each responsible for crucial operations. As a retired United States Army aviator, I hold a special appreciation for Gen. Powell. I would be remiss if I didn’t include the rest of his quote: “Only by attracting the best people will you accomplish great deeds.”

It is, first and foremost, the people who make ATL such a special place. 

In many ways, managing an enterprise as complex as ATL is similar to running a city. Safety and security are paramount for the nearly 300,000 passengers traveling through our facility daily. It takes the total commitment of dedicated men and women to accomplish this. 

ATL’s success is a testament to the power of collaboration and coordination. We are fortunate to work with some of the industry’s finest professionals, including staff and leadership at TSA, CBP, FAA, airport stakeholders, contractors and the airlines. Our longstanding relationship with Delta Air Lines, spanning over 95 years, is a prime example of how mutual respect and cooperation can lead to significant growth and economic opportunities. These partnerships demonstrate what can be achieved when we all work toward a common goal: providing safe, secure and exceptional travel experiences for
our customers.

The aviation industry is vibrant and robust today, in large part because of our advocates. AAAE, ACI-NA and AMAC always challenge us to engage in and innovate best practices and share our accrued knowledge across the industry.
I strongly encourage continued partnership in the areas of infrastructure funding, sustainability, diversity and inclusion, workforce development and technology, as these areas will strengthen and enrich our industry.

As we look ahead, we plan for continued growth. ATL will serve 1 billion passengers in the next decade, manage 8 million aircraft movements, and—to accommodate all that—continue its $10 billion capital improvement program. Hartsfield-Jackson pays particular attention to the legacy left by former Mayor Maynard Jackson, Jr., who stated that communities should be allowed to work at ATL. Over the next 10 years, ATL will host major events, including the ACI Global Customer Experience Summit in 2024, AAAE’s Annual Conference in 2025 and FIFA’s World Cup in 2026. It’s quite a daunting list, but ATL has done it before. I look back with pride on our past two decades of work. ATL added a fifth runway, built a new 12-gate international terminal, a consolidated rental car facility, an elevated train system and an in-line baggage screening system, among many other projects.

I was incredibly fortunate to work for visionary leaders who built upon the legacies of mayors William Hartsfield and Maynard Jackson. Mayors Bill Campbell, Shirley Franklin, Kasim Reed, Keisha Lance-Bottoms and Andre Dickens provided support, encouragement and direction. Mayor Lance-Bottoms, who appointed me to the top job, and Mayor Dickens, who reaffirmed the appointment, both hold a special place in my heart.  Additionally, I would like to acknowledge one of my mentors, Ben DeCosta, a long-serving ATL general manager, for his dynamic leadership in future-proofing ATL.

As I prepare to embark on the next chapter of my life, I am filled with a sense of optimism. The one certainty I am blessed with is the unwavering support of my family, and for that, I am eternally grateful. Looking back at our industry’s achievements, I am confident that the future holds even greater promise and potential.

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