Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (IATA: ATL) ("Hartsfield–Jackson," "ATL," or just "the airport" to locals), is located about 8 miles south of downtown Atlanta. Hartsfield–Jackson has been the world's busiest airport since 1999, and is a major hub for Delta Air Lines and a focus city for Southwest Airlines.
- See also: air travel in the USA
In 2011, Atlanta's airport accommodated 92 million passengers and 252,000 per day. In 2011, the airport also had 923,991 flights that departed and arrived. Its efficient layout means it is also easy to navigate and not as delay-prone as many other hub airports. The airport has many international nonstop services to North America, South America, Latin and Central America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. If you are changing planes in the US, chances are it is in Atlanta. As the saying goes "It doesn't matter whether you go to heaven or hell, there is always a connection in Atlanta".
On the domestic side, Hartsfield–Jackson is one large building separated into South Terminal (Delta and its partners) and North Terminal (all other airlines), connected by a central Atrium with a smattering of restaurants. The security line is through the Atrium, and because it is centralized, is usually fast; you can check current wait times online. A new international terminal on the opposite end of the airport is used for all arriving and departing international flights.
If your first flight directly leaves the United States, you should check in at the International Terminal (accessible by car from I-75, or by a free connecting shuttle from the Domestic Terminal). However, on international itineraries that involve a domestic connection before leaving the United States, and for all domestic flights (including those to U.S. territories), you should check in at the Domestic Terminal (accessible from MARTA, the rental car center, and by car from I-85).
Delta offers self check-in that's almost wholly automated. The fastest and easiest way is to use your ID, whether that's a credit card (only your name is pulled from it, so it doesn't matter whether you used it to book the ticket), a U.S. drivers' license, a passport, or a frequent flyer number. You can also enter your confirmation number or other booking details. If you're checking bags, indicate that on the kiosk, and it will direct you to a bag drop. The whole process is easy and takes just a minute or two; just answer the questions on the kiosk.
Mobile check-in is also available at all security checkpoints; this lets you pull up your boarding pass on your mobile phone to get through security and board the plane, bypassing the check-in desks and saving paper.
Regardless of what gate you arrive at, if you're on an international flight your baggage will be at the International Terminal in Concourse F. For domestic flights, your baggage will be in the domestic terminal in either South Terminal (Delta and its partners) or North Terminal (all other airlines).
- See also: Atlanta#Get around
Hartsfield–Jackson is the terminus of the southern branch of MARTA, the city rail system. For travel to downtown, midtown, or northern Atlanta, this is a convenient and economical way of getting there, although usually one of the slowest. To/from Five Points Station travel time is about 20 minutes; to/from Lindbergh Station it's about 30 (not including waiting for a train). Walk past baggage claim to get to the MARTA station. All fares are $2.50 one-way (not including a $1 fare card) and include free transfers for both rail and bus. Departing trains alternate between Doraville-bound and North Springs–bound; but unless you are going north of Lindbergh Station on either the Red or Gold line, it does not matter which one you take.
Most MARTA stations have taxi stands, and some hotels have free shuttles which will collect from the nearest MARTA station on telephone request.
Taxis are fixed-rate when going to/from the airport and major business areas (Downtown $30, Midtown $32, Buckhead $40; excluding fees); be sure to insist on this fare.
Shuttles to nearby hotels and other attractions are located past the MARTA station.
The airport is easily reached from I-85 (domestic terminals) or I-75 (international terminal), where there are well-labeled signs directing you to the airport.
At the domestic terminals, you will need to know whether you're going to South Terminal (Delta and its partners) or North Terminal (all other airlines), because the road divides. Fortunately there are signs posted listing the airlines for each terminal.
If you just want to drop someone off quickly, the curbside drop-off lanes are quick in spite of the heavy traffic. Surly police officers will not let you linger for too long, so if you want a longer goodbye, pay a few dollars for the hourly parking lot.
Free "cell phone" parking lots are available if you're waiting a short time to pick up an arriving passenger. Both short-term (hourly and daily) and long-term (economy) parking are available from both terminals. There are also off-site parking lots with shuttles.
By rental car
When picking up your car, the ATL SkyTrain will take you to the Hartsfield–Jackson Rental Car Center, a dedicated complex with rental check-in desks and parking decks for the rental cars.
The road signs for rental car return are not obvious; follow the signs toward both the terminals, and you will see much smaller signs pointing you to rental car return. When you reach the Rental Car Center, drive around the loop until you see the parking deck entrance for your rental car agency. Then, after you've returned the car, take the ATL SkyTrain to the airport.
Regional shuttle service to nearby cities is available, including the following destinations served by Groome Transportation:
- Athens (University of Georgia)
- Auburn/Opelika (Auburn University)
- Augusta/Fort Gordon
- Columbus/Fort Benning
- Warner Robins/Robins AFB
The airplane boarding gates are in 7 concourses; in order they are T, A, B, C, D, E, and F. To go to or between the concourses, you take an escalator down to a long underground hallway (the Transportation Mall), and take the fast Plane Train, an automated people mover that stops at every concourse/terminal roughly every 2 minutes. You can also choose to walk (it's about 1000 feet between each concourse). With either method, you don't leave and then re-enter secure zones, so tight connections are usually quite feasible.
Concourses E and F are the international terminals, with F now most often used. It's where you will go through customs and immigration when arriving from abroad. You can go to or be picked up directly at terminal F, by car, taxi or shuttle. If you flight arrives at F and you want to use other ground transportation (rental car, public transit, other shuttle), take the free airport shuttle connector to the domestic terminal or car rental center.
In the domestic terminal, there are three security check-points: the main one in between the north and south terminals, and a smaller one near the end of each of the terminals. The main security check-point has many more scanners, and tends to be the fastest way through security. You can check the current wait times online.
Although the airport has all the conveniences you'd expect (several for-pay Wi-Fi providers and free access to a few Atlanta web sites, an assortment of slow overpriced restaurants, etc.) there is not much else to see or do. If you find yourself with free time, go contemplate the Zimbabwean stone statues in the underground corridor between Concourses T and A, or check out the scenery in brand-new Concourse F. If you want a bit more ambiance, Concourse E has a food court with live piano.
The airport is also home to a few 'landmarks':
- In the Domestic Atrium there is a dinosaur skeleton on temporary loan from Atlanta's Fernbank Museum.
- In South Terminal there is a collection of model World War II aircraft and "sweetheart jewelry."
- The underground Transportation Mall has a few exhibits, if you're willing to skip the Plane Train and walk:
- Between Concourse T and Concourse A there are Zimbabwean stone sculptures.
- There's an exhibit on the history of Atlanta between Concourses A and B.
- Concourse E includes an exhibit on the life of civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., by the escalators from the Transportation Mall level.
Eat and Drink
As with most airports, food options are reasonably plentiful but not particularly noteworthy, and decidedly overpriced. If you're pressed for time, you should really choose fast-food, because almost every restaurant has slow service; even a fast-food joint can hold you up for 5–10 minutes, which could just be time you don't have when trying to make a tight connection.
There are 9 restaurants in the Atrium before you go through security, which is your only option if you're eating with someone who isn't also flying somewhere. Otherwise, there are restaurants scattered throughout every concourse, but you'll only see a couple of them on the way to your gate. If you're more particular, you'll probably have to go out of your way to another concourse.
Coffee options are generic: Starbucks and/or Seattle's Best have locations in the Atrium and all the concourses (but not necessarily near the middle). Your only other choices are Abica Coffee at Gate A28 and Caribou Coffee at Concourse E center.
For beer or liquor, you're going to have to look a little harder.
- Atlanta Bread Company. Although they have locations in 24 states now, it doesn't diminish the fact that this is a good place for a sandwich and a cup of soup that is probably more impressive than something from Asian Chao or Domino's. Don't expect your sandwich in under 5 minutes, though.
- Houlihan's. This is your only choice if you want a drink outside of the secure area.
- Bar One, Gate A1. Martinis
- One Flew South, Concourse E center, ☎ . Daily 11AM-10PM. One of the best-rated cocktail bars in the city, this part-Japanese part-Southern restaurant is tucked away in a primarily international terminal. It's worth going out of your way for, though, as their cocktails are expertly constructed and fairly priced; the wine menu is similarly extensive. Bring your appetite, too, or you might miss trying the Kobe burger or thyme roasted pork belly. Cocktails $10-15, wine by the glass $8-18, beer $6-8. Appetizers $7-16, mains $12-29.
- Sweetwater Draft House & Grill, Gates A25, B11, ☎ . Daily 8AM-10PM (A25), 6AM-11PM (B11). Serving up Georgia's most well-known craft beer.
- Samuel Adams Atlanta Brew House, Gates T7, A12, C42. Daily 7AM-10PM. Your second best bet for a decent pint of beer.
- Varasano's Pizzeria, Concourse A center. 7:30AM-11PM. Little sibling to Varasano's Pizzeria in Buckhead, ranked among top pizza restaurants in the U.S. Also serves drinks and music at the piano bar.
The usual duty free and souvenir stores abound throughout the airport
There is wireless internet throughout the airport for pay, via 6 major providers. Using the ATL-WIFI network you can also access a limited number of sites for free (mostly large or famous Atlanta institutions/attractions, and a few travel-related sites).
The USO has a lounge outside security upstairs from the domestic Atrium (M-F 7AM-9PM, Sa 7AM-6PM, Su 7AM-8PM).
The airport never closes, and you won't get kicked out for sleeping on the chairs or probably even the floor (although you may be asked to move). But for comfort reasons, it's best to avoid that except as a last resort.
There are quite a few hotels near the airport, but your only option within the airport is Minute Suites (by gate B15). Their 7-foot-by-8-foot room feature a cot, HDTV, and an office desk, but no showers. At $30 for an hour and $7.50 per additional 15 minutes, it's not going to be cheaper than a hotel for an overnight stay, but if you just want to rest between flights, this probably beats sleeping upright sitting in a chair..
- Hilton Atlanta Airport, 1031 Virginia Ave (Shuttle available from airport), ☎ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 12PM. Wi-Fi free in public areas, $14.95 wireless and wired in guest rooms. Parking $14/overnight, valet $20/overnight. Pets allowed (up to 75lbs, $50 fee).
- Hyatt Place Atlanta Airport-North, 3415 Norman Berry Dr (Shuttle available from airport), ☎ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 12PM. Wi-Fi free. Parking $4/hourly, $16/daily, valet $18/daily. Pets allowed (up to 50lbs, $75 fee 1–6 nights).
- Renaissance Concourse Atlanta Airport Hotel, 1 Hartsfield Centre Pkwy (Shuttle available from airport), ☎ , toll-free: . Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 12PM. From $69/night. Wi-Fi free in public areas, $14.95 wireless and wired in guest rooms. Parking $4/hourly, $16/daily, valet $18/daily.