Long ago, 287 of the 4,700 acres that Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International now sits on was actually occupied by a racetrack by the name of The Atlanta Speedway. The old track that once attracted fast cars has since been replaced by five aircraft runways and what has become the busiest airport in the world. Atlanta's airport sees well over 100 million passengers pass through its gates annually, and that number continues to grow year after year. On average, more than 275,000 passengers arrive or depart from the 2,700 flights that come through Hartsfield-Jackson daily.
Why is Atlanta the center of the nation's (and globe's) flight network, you ask? Being located within two hours (by flight) to 80 percent of the U.S. population certainly doesn't hurt. This airport offers nonstop services to at least 150 domestic destinations and an additional 70 international destinations in more than 50 countries. It's the primary hub of Delta Air Lines, which operates about 1,000 peak-day departures to 200-plus destinations worldwide. Other domestic carriers such as American, JetBlue, and United, have a major presence at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, as do foreign carriers Air France, British Airways, and Virgin Atlantic.
This enormous travel center can be overwhelming even for the folks who have traveled through it numerous times. The terminal complex, encompassing 6.8 million square feet, is split into an International Terminal named after Maynard H. Jackson Jr. and a Domestic Terminal that is further split into sections North and South (the South portion is called the Atlanta Airport Delta Terminal because it exclusively serves Delta Air Lines). Between the terminals are seven pier concourses—labeled T, A, B, C, D, E, and F—connected by one long hallway.
The latter two are reserved for international flights. There is shopping and dining to be found throughout all concourses and both terminals, but much of it is centered around the grand, circular Atrium on the Domestic side.
Airport Code, Location, and Contact Information
- Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) is just under 10 miles from Downtown Atlanta in the unincorporated areas of Fulton and Clayton counties. It's so big, in fact, that it warrants two addresses: one for the Domestic Terminal (6000 North Terminal Parkway) and one for the International Terminal (600 Maynard H. Jackson Jr. Boulevard). Each terminal has its own entrance and parking lots.
- Website: www.atl.com
- Flight Tracker: http://apps.atl.com/Passenger/FlightInfo/Default.aspx
- Map: https://goo.gl/maps/qRJsbUQEAcoi4hP86
- Phone: (800) 897-1910
Know Before You Go
Despite its intricate fishbone-like layout, with Domestic being the head and International being the tail, ATL is easy to navigate once you orient yourself with its many body parts, you could say. On one side, you have the Maynard H. Jackson Jr. International Terminal; on the other, the Domestic Terminal, which is divided into two sections—North and South—with the Atrium in the middle. The two terminals are connected by a hallway that has seven concourses dotted along it, each jetting out to the north and south (these would be the ribs).
Five are for domestic flights and two are for international. There's an inter-terminal rail link called the Plane Train that runs between terminals, stopping at all concourses, 24 hours a day. There's also an underground skywalk called the Transportation Mall and a free shuttle bus that travels between terminals (not stopping at concourses along the way).
As the world's busiest airport, waits at security checkpoints can reach an hour at peak times. Apply for TSA PreCheck (must be done in advance) or CLEAR (available on the spot) to cut down on your wait time and plan on arriving at least two hours before a domestic flight and three hours before an international one. You can access current security wait times on the ATL website, which also offers Trak-a-Line, which will update you via email or text if security times significantly change leading up to your flight.
Because security lines for international departures tend to move faster and you can reach the domestic gates without re-entering security, it might be best for domestic travelers to arrive at the International Terminal instead.
Hartsfield-Jackson has more than 40,000 parking spaces, but be sure to check the airport website for the latest on construction projects and road closures as well as the current capacity of parking lots before driving into ATL.
Parking at the Domestic Terminal is available for $3 per hour or $36 for the day at the North and South Hourly Parking Lots, for $3 per hour or $19 for the day at the four-level (covered) Daily Parking Lot, for $3 per hour or $14 for the day at the Economy Lots (on the north, south, and west sides of the terminal), and for $3 per hour or $10 for the day at Park-Ride lots A and C, which is a short shuttle ride away from Terminal North and Terminal South, respectively.
Parking at the International Terminal includes the Hourly lot, $3 per hour or $36 per day, and the Park-Ride lot just west of Loop Road (three minutes on the shuttle) for $3 per hour or $14 per day.
Additionally, there are plenty of nearby off-site parking options that aren't affiliated with the airport (and could, therefore, offer a lower price), including Peachy Airport Parking and Park N' Fly, both of which take reservations and operate shuttle services to either terminal.
Both Domestic and International are accessible via Interstates 20, 75, 85, and 285 and are about a 20- to 30-minute drive from the city center. From Downtown Atlanta, the quickest route is typically via I-85 South, which merges onto I-75 South, a straight shot to ATL. Signage is clearly marked coming from all directions.
Public Transportation and Taxis
Hartsfield-Jackson is the last southbound stop on the Gold and Red lines of MARTA, the city's train system. It stops at Airport Station between the North and South baggage claims in the Domestic Terminal. You can access it from the International Terminal by a free shuttle bus, also located just outside baggage claim. Trains depart every 10 to 20 minutes and can be accessed with a Breeze Card, which passengers can purchase from vending machines at the station or online.
In addition to the train, MARTA also operates a bus from ATL, too. Bus 191 is the only route that services the airport. It runs from the Clayton County Justice Center to Lakewood Station and back, stopping by the airport midway, but beware because it can be slow.
If you're willing to splurge on a taxi, you'll find one outside baggage claim at each terminal. They charge a flat rate minimum of $30 to and from the Downtown area, with an additional charge of $2 per person. Rates to Midtown start at $32, Buckhead at $40, and other areas are $2.50 for the first eighth-mile, then $0.25 for each additional eighth-mile.
Where to Eat and Drink
It can be difficult to choose from ATL's 170 restaurants when then travel hanger finally kicks in. There are kiosks, coffee shops, concessions, and sit-down restaurants tucked into every corner of this vast, web-like airport, and if you don't plan your meals ahead of time, you might miss out on some of the best food in Atlanta. Each concourse is chockfull of food options by the dozens, so rest assured a burger, pho, or slice of pizza will never be too far from reach. In the Domestic Terminal, there's the Atrium, which has the Atlanta Chophouse & Brewery (good beer in a sit-down atmosphere), Shanes Rib Shack, TJ's Craft Sandwiches, and plenty of other familiar chains, including IHOP, Popeyes, TGI Friday's, and Burger King.
Concourse T, which is connected to the Domestic Terminal, is home to Grindhouse Killer Burgers (for your beef and milkshake fix), Atlanta Stillhouse (prime Southern-style barbecue), and Papi's Caribbean Cafe. Other foodie highlights include Varasano's (a pizzeria and piano bar) in Concourse A, the Last Cast Bar and Grill (tacos and bar food) in Concourse B, The Original El Taco in Concourse C, One Flew South (an upscale eatery that's been repeatedly named one of the best airport restaurants in the world) in Concourse E, and Ecco (an outpost of the popular Midtown original) in Concourse F.
The International Terminal, itself, doesn't have many options—only Jekyll Island Seafood Company and a couple others—but international flyers are able to access the Domestic Terminal and concourses.
Hometown airline Delta has put its Sky Clubs in every concourse, offering passengers complimentary beverages, food, free wifi, and satellite television. Access is limited to members, with up to two guests allowed per member at $29 each. Some have showers, too.
United and American also have members-only clubs, which are located in Concourse T. British Airways, Lufthansa, Priority Pass, Lounge Club, and Diners Club International passengers have access to the common-use lounge—The Club at ATL—which is located on Concourse F. Day passes are available for $40. There's also a USO Lounge on the third floor of the Atrium that's free for active members of the military and their families.
Wifi and Charging Stations
Free wifi is available throughout the airport. Once you've selected the airport network, you'll be directed to a splash page to enter your name and email address in order to connect. The airport has ample charging stations at gates in all concourses, so you don't have to worry about running out of juice during your wait.
Airport Tips and Tidbits
- The airport is home to a 1,000-square-foot dog park, Poochie Park, which is located at the Ground Transportation area just outside doors W1 and W2 of Domestic Terminal South. The grassy haven is leash-free and open 24 hours a day.
- If you're interested in getting a behind-the-scenes look at the world's busiest airport, then you might want to sign up for a tour of airport operations, the airfield, the eTower, or the fire station. There's also a history walk through Concourses B and C. Tours last 1.5 to 3 hours and start at 9 and 10 a.m. You must sign up at least 21 days before your flight to participate.
- The Aviation Art Program started in 1979 by then-Mayor Maynard Jackson. The program commissions artists to create site-specific artwork presents rotating exhibitions, and schedules performing arts series throughout the airport.