About 3,000 people came to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport Saturday to see the new $1.4 billion international terminal before it opens May 16.
The international terminal open house is likely one of the last times many Atlanta area residents will be able to simply walk past inactive security checkpoints and onto Concourse F, where a huge crystal chandelier hangs in the two-story, light-filled transitions hall.
That's because in a week and a half the international terminal will go into operation as a new second entrance to the airport for international travelers. At that point, gaining access to the sparkling new 12-gate concourse will, for most people, require buying an airline ticket.
But Saturday airport officials held the doors wide open for members of the public eager to see the new terminal.
"I think it's going to be a great addition to the city and the area," said Roger Allison, who is retired and lives in Marietta. The new terminal is "much more spacious, brighter, roomier" than much of the rest of the airport, he said.
"They learned a lot of lessons from the old terminal," Allison said. "People aren't going to be as packed in."
He thinks over time the terminal will be worth the investment. "Obviously someone in the city was thinking way ahead," he said. "It had to be long-range planning."
Eric McMillan, a software company business analyst who lives in Atlanta, called Hartsfield-Jackson "the gateway for so many people."
"If you give a so-so experience, it doesn't say much for Atlanta," McMillan said.
But Joshua Jobe thinks the answer of whether the terminal is worth the $1.4 billion price is yet to be seen.
"That's a lot of money, and we only got 12 additional gates out of it," Jobe said.
Saturday's community sneak peek was one of three events the airport spent $200,000 to hold in advance of the international terminal opening. The open house followed an evening reception and ribbon-cutting for dignitaries Thursday night, as well as an event for airport employees Friday.