Atlanta Airport Guide
The busiest airport in the world? Atlanta’s mega hub, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Since the late 1990s, this airport has led the world in the number of passengers served (92 million in 2011), and for the past decade, it has also been the airport with the most takeoffs and landings, at close to 900,000 annually.
Named after William B. Hartsfield and Maynard Jackson, 2 former Atlanta mayors, the airport is a substantial international hub, but most of the airport’s traffic is driven by domestic flights. Atlanta’s convenient location has made the airport a connection point from east to west, north to south. Delta Airlines, which operates close to 60% of the flights at Hartsfield-Jackson, has been instrumental in the airport’s growth, working with its SkyTeam partners such as Air France and Korean Air to connect international flights to Delta’s vast US network. This international expansion led to the opening of the Maynard H. Jackson Jr. International Terminal in 2012, which comprises Concourse F.
The airport has been organized into 7 nearly identical horizontal concourses and connected by an underground tunnel, which carries passengers via a moving walkway, or on a people-mover called the Plane Train. Because of the airport’s size, sometimes travelers can spend up to 30 to 40 minutes transferring from one gate to another.
If you travel with any frequency, chances are you will pass through Hartsfield-Jackson one of these days. Or as the popular joke goes, whether you go to heaven or hell, chances are you will need to connect in Atlanta to get there.
Coming and Going
Atlanta’s airport is located about 10 miles, or about 15 minutes from downtown Atlanta. There are a multitude of shuttle buses and taxis to get you back and forth. The most convenient option is the MARTA station located inside the main terminal, which connects to the city’s public train system.
However, as Atlanta is a mostly driving city, Hartsfield-Jackson hosts a state-of-the-art car rental center, which opened in 2009, and houses 10 of the major car rental companies that serve the airport. With close to 10,000 parking spaces, the car rental center has a purpose-built roadway that connects it to all major highways.
If your layover is particularly long, one of the best places to relax is the Minute Suites, located in Concourse B. Travelers can rent a private room equipped with a day bed, fresh pillows and blankets along with a TV and a desk to relax and work.
If your needs require more than that, the best bet would be to head to one of Delta’s Sky Clubs, which are located in every concourse in the airport. Choose either a 1-time pass or a day pass, which can be used for multiple entries on the same day at any location, even at a different airport. Most clubs are well-stocked with food, drinks and amenities, but head to the clubs in concourses E and F for a hot shower.
As one can imagine, Atlanta’s airport is filled with shopping and dining options. The airport has been one of the US aviation hubs that have spearheaded destination-dining inside their terminals.
Not simply content to have its food options limited to fast-food chains and quick, on-the-go fare -- yes, you will find a few Chick-fil-As here -- the airport recently invited local chefs and local culinary institutions to set up within its concourses.
The most popular of these options includes One Flew South, which is often regarded as one of the best fine-dining airport restaurants in the US. Its brand of cuisine is self-termed “Southernational” -- meaning, it’s food informed by international travels but with a distinctive Southern flavor. Located in Concourse E, the restaurant’s menu includes sushi along with pork belly and salmon hot pot.
For the real Southern stuff, visit Paschal’s Southern Cooking, located in the main terminal, concourses A and C. The airport branches of this local Atlanta institution serve up traditional fried chicken, blackened-and-fried catfish, fried oysters and more.
Currently, Hartsfield-Jackson is wired throughout the entire airport with Wi-Fi. Rather than allow individual operators to install their own services, the airport has instituted a standard flat rate per day with an aim to offer free Wi-Fi to all travelers by fall 2013.
NYC-based writer Andrew Yang’s most memorable flight into Hartsfield-Jackson was during the Eyjafjallajökull volcano eruption in 2010. The airport’s multitude of flights and its status as a mega-hub allowed him an easy connection home after being stranded for several days in Europe.