American Airlines bag claim moving to make way for new Atlanta airport employee screening checkpoint

Credit: Kelly Yamanouchi

Credit: Kelly Yamanouchi

The American Airlines baggage claim area at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, ensconced in an exclusive area below the main terminal level, will be removed to make way for an airport employee screening checkpoint.

American has long had its own baggage claim area that's close to its gates on Concourse T. But now, American will consolidate its baggage claim on the main level with the rest of the airlines at Terminal North.

The move is the result of an airline merger and heightened concerns about airport security.

Credit: Kelly Yamanouchi

Credit: Kelly Yamanouchi

Some American Airlines passengers had enjoyed using their own baggage claim area.

Hartsfield-Jackson spokesman Reese McCranie said: "I think they'll find this is convenient for them as well."

Since American's recent merger with US Airways, it has had a split operation at Hartsfield-Jackson on Concourses D and T, and has used both its exclusive baggage claim area and the main baggage claim at Terminal North.

American spokesman Ross Feinstein said the consolidation onto the main level will be easier for passengers overall "because everybody is going to one baggage claim and it won't be split up into two." The airline also plans to eventually consolidate its gates at Hartsfield-Jackson.

American will return the roughly 10,000 square feet of bag claim area space to the airport, in a measure before the Atlanta city council transportation committee this week. Hartsfield-Jackson will use the space to build a security checkpoint to screen workers, as part of its effort to close security gaps in checks of employees.

"The American Airlines baggage claim area has been determined to be the most logical place for this function given its layout and the separation from passenger[s] on operations on the ticketing level, above," according to the city council resolution.

Hartsfield-Jackson decided last year to screen workers in response to a gun-running scheme involving a baggage handler that was uncovered in 2014.

Workers at the Atlanta airport currently use a three-lane screening checkpoint that opened last year below the domestic terminal atrium. That checkpoint was designed to screen more than 27,000 badged employees a week, and will be replaced by the new checkpoint.

Credit: Kelly Yamanouchi

Credit: Kelly Yamanouchi

The security checkpoint space below the atrium will revert back to its previous use, which allowed passengers walking in the underground walkway up to go up to the domestic terminal.

Construction of the new six-lane employee screening checkpoint is expected to begin next year, to be completed in fall 2017.