Hartsfield-Jackson expects a record number of travelers over the busy holiday period, and knowing what to expect can increase your chances of handling the hassles with ease to make it to your destination smoothly.
There are a variety of new roadblocks, airline policy changes and expanded airport amenities. Here’s a guide to the latest updates at Hartsfield-Jackson, to help ensure you take to the skies as a savvy traveler.
AIRPORT EXPANSION AND MODERNIZATION
ROAD CONSTRUCTION: The airport is constructing a giant canopy over Delta’s Terminal South curbside area, causing some lane closures. The Terminal South upper level outer lanes are closed.
That is creating congestion for motorists approaching the curbside and parking decks and lots next to the terminal. As a result, the airport is allowing cars to load and unload passengers in their lanes, rather than pulling to the curb.
Because of the construction at Terminal South, Hartsfield-Jackson officials recommend motorists consider using hourly parking or the Terminal North lower level to drop off or pick up passengers, regardless of airline. To get to the Terminal North lower level, stay in the left lane toward the Terminal North parking deck — the lower level entrance is just to the right of the parking deck entrance.
The Terminal South canopy will complement the canopy recently completed over the Terminal North curbside area. It’s part of Hartsfield-Jackson’s $6 billion plan to modernize the terminal and expand the airport.
Allow extra time to navigate through any congestion, slow down on your approach to the terminal and watch for lane closures.
HOW EARLY SHOULD YOU GET TO THE AIRPORT?
Airport and TSA officials in Atlanta recommend getting to the airport terminal two hours before domestic flights and three hours before international flights.
ALLOW EXTRA TIME BEYOND TWO HOURS TO:
Navigate road construction
Find parking or take a shuttle to the terminal
Check oversized bags
Get special assistance
Travel with pets/animals (Keep your pet in its carrier and try to avoid any checkpoints with a working TSA dog, since other animals — including service animals — can distract the working dog)
PARKING: Airport long-term parking and off-airport lots can fill up during busy holiday periods. Consider making a parking reservation at the airport or at an off-site parking lot to ensure you get a space, even when lots fill up. You can also check Hartsfield-Jackson parking lot status online.
UBER, LYFT PICKUP-ZONES: One of the airport’s pickup zones for Uber and Lyft moved to a new spot in late December 2018.
The pickup zone that moved is the Domestic Terminal North zone, which will be in a new location 750 feet closer to the terminal. Uber and Lyft users at Terminal North will still need to exit through the Lower North exit door. Signs and customer service staff will direct passengers to the new location underneath the MARTA tracks just outside the North parking deck.
Due to the road closures for canopy construction, the airport in 2017 relocated Uber and Lyft pickups to designated zones in the economy parking lots. Warning: The Terminal South pickup zones is still a lengthy walk from the terminal.
During busy periods, the pickup zones can get congested with dozens of drivers and cars trying to connect. Officials recommend arriving passengers without checked bags who use Uber or Lyft take the Plane Train people-mover to the international terminal to be picked up curbside.
SHUTTLE DROP-OFFS: Hartsfield-Jackson has relocated domestic Terminal South shuttle drop-offs for off-airport parking, hotels and regional shuttles to Terminal North, due to the canopy construction.
AIRPORT HOURS: This year, Hartsfield-Jackson began restricting access to the airport between the hours of 11 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. During the overnight period, only ticketed airline passengers; people meeting, accompanying or assisting passengers; and “authorized personnel” are allowed in the terminals, parking decks, SkyTrain and rental car center. The policy came after a growing issue of homeless people sleeping in the terminal overnight.
NEW AIRPORT AMENITIES
EATERIES: New food and beverage options at Hartsfield-Jackson this year include:
TJ’s Craft Sandwiches - Domestic terminal atrium, near South baggage claim
Shake Shack - Burger chain from New York on Concourse A
Bobby’s Burger Palace - Bobby Flay burger joint on Concourse B
Wendy’s - New location on Concourse B
MINUTE SUITES: There are now two Minute Suites locations at Hartsfield-Jackson, one on Concourse B and a new location on Concourse T. The units each have a daybed, pillows, blankets, at TV, desk and chair.
SKY CLUB SPA: Delta has opened an Asanda Spa Lounge inside its Concourse E Sky Club. However, Delta has discontinued the sale of single visit passes to Sky Clubs.
XPRESSPA: XpresSpa now has three locations at Hartsfield-Jackson, including on Concourses A and C and a new location on Concourse D.
HUDSON MEGASTORE: A new Hudson store on Concourse F is the largest Hudson store in the world, including boutiques within the store featuring candy, books, convenience items and tech accessories. It replaces Clutch, Luxury Boutique and Sunglass Icon on Concourse F.
LACTATION PODS: There are now Mamava pods on six concourses at Hartsfield-Jackson, including on Concourses T, B, D, E and F, along with F arrivals.
HIGHER BAG FEES: Delta has increased its checked baggage fees to $30 for a first checked bag and $40 for a second checked bag. That’s up $5 from the previous fees. United, American and JetBlue have also put in similar baggage fee increases.
NEW ANIMAL RULES: Delta now limits each passenger to one emotional support animal, and prohibits pit bulls as service or support animals on flights. Delta also requires those traveling with emotional support animals or psychiatric service animals to submit forms online 48 hours in advance and to use the full-service check-in counter at the airport. Southwest also now limits each passenger to one emotional support animal, which must be either a cat or a dog.
Effective for tickets booked Dec. 18 or later and flights Feb. 1, 2019 or later, Delta will also ban puppies and kittens under four months old as service or support animals, and will ban emotional support animals on flights longer than 8 hours.
FREE IN-FLIGHT MOVIES: Southwest now offers all of its in-flight movies for free, in line with what Delta and some other carriers offer. Passengers on Southwest can watch movies for free on their smartphone, iPad, tablet or laptop on planes equipped with wi-fi. Delta passengers can watch free movies on their devices or on seat-back screens.
Security line choices: Standard, PreCheck and Clear
STANDARD: Standard TSA lines require travelers to remove their coats, shoes and belts; take permitted liquids out of carry-ons and remove large electronic devices including tablets and laptops from bags. There are three checkpoints in the domestic terminal — Main, South and North. The international terminal has its own security checkpoint.
TSA checkpoint hours
Domestic Main: 24 hours
Domestic North and South: 4 a.m.-8 p.m.
International: 5 a.m.-12:30 a.m.
TSA PRECHECK:TSA PreCheck offers expedited screening, with the chance to keep your shoes, belts and jackets on and leave liquids in your suitcase. It costs $85 for five years. You can sign up online and schedule an appointment at a PreCheck enrollment center. There is a registration center in Hartsfield-Jackson’s domestic terminal and one on Concourse A.
PreCheck lane hours
Domestic Main: 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Domestic North: 5 a.m. to 7 p.m.
International terminal: 6:30 a.m.-9:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m.
Early PreCheck memberships expiring: Travelers who were among the first to enroll in TSA PreCheck may soon see their five-year memberships expire. That’s because TSA opened enrollment centers for PreCheck in late 2013, after previously allowing travelers to opt in through airline frequent flier programs. Atlanta was among the first airports to get an enrollment site, in January 2014. Those who are up for renewal will get notices via mail or e-mail, and you can check online to see if you are close to expiring by entering your Known Traveler number, date of birth and last name. Global Entry and other trusted traveler programs have separate systems.
CLEAR: Biometric ID technology firm Clear operates security lines at the Main checkpoint and South checkpoint at Hartsfield-Jackson, selling $179 annual memberships for access to special airport security lines that are often shorter. Delta offers discounted Clear memberships to SkyMiles frequent fliers.
There is a Clear PreCheck line that offers benefits of both Clear lines and PreCheck expedited screening at the main checkpoint with an entrance from the South hallway. There is a Clear standard line at the South checkpoint for non-PreCheck travelers.
FOOD SCREENING: Although it’s not required, TSA recommends passengers remove food items and powdered items from their bags and put them into the bin to declutter X-ray images and reduce the need for manual bag checks.
TSA SMART LANES: The Transportation Security Administration now has 22 automated screening lanes spread across the domestic security checkpoints. That means most of the security lanes at the domestic terminal are smart lanes, which require a different process for travelers. The “smart” automated screening lanes are aimed at speeding the process of security screening, but they can take some getting used to. If you are at an automated screening lane with larger bins and metal conveyors, here’s what you need to know:
If you’re next in line and any of the five bin-loading stations opens up, proceed to it. Don’t just wait behind the person in front of you if there is an empty station available.
Everything goes in a bin, including a roll-aboard suitcase for example. The bins are 25 percent larger, but be aware that oversized carry-on luggage won’t fit in the bin.
Push the bin onto the conveyor belt, which will automatically move it into the X-ray machine. Then walk through the checkpoint — you don’t have to wait for the person in front of you to finish.
If a bin’s contents need to be manually screened, it is automatically bumped over to an alternate conveyor belt for an officer’s inspection. If your bin clears the X-ray machine, retrieve your belongings on the other side as usual. Then, put your bin on the stack at the end of the lane, where it will be automatically returned to the front of the line via a lower-level conveyor belt.
Biometric terminal: Delta is launching the first biometric terminal in the United States at Hartsfield-Jackson’s international terminal.
As part of the rollout, TSA is piloting facial recognition technology at the international terminal.
Here’s how it works: At the international terminal security checkpoint, passengers can have their picture taken instead of presenting ID. The picture will be compared to a passport photo or other photos in government databases to verify identity, then the passenger will be directed to proceed to physical screening.
Participating in the facial recognition test is voluntary.
Those flying Delta or Delta partners Aeromexico, Air France-KLM or Virgin Atlantic direct to an international destination who want to use facial recognition can approach a camera at self-service kiosks, check-in counters and when boarding. Once a green check mark flashes on the screen, the passenger can proceed.
Those who do not want to participate can opt out of the process.
Inbound travel to U.S.: As of June 30, 2018, TSA says for international flights to the United States, powder-based substances in carry-on bags may require additional screening and powders over 12 oz. or 350 ml in carry-ons that cannot be resolved will not be allowed in the cabin of the plane and will be disposed of. TSA recommends international travelers to the U.S. place powders in checked baggage for convenience.
Q: Where can international travelers park at the international terminal?
A: The international terminal has a short-term hourly parking garage, as well as a long-term park-ride garage with a 3-minute shuttle bus ride to the terminal, and a Gold Reserve parking lot that requires registration. There are no daily parking or walkable economy parking lots like at the domestic terminal.
Q: Where do international travelers claim their checked bags when arriving in Atlanta?
A: At the international terminal baggage claim area.
Q: What if I go to the wrong terminal?
A: You may still be able to check in for your flight, depending on the airline. But if you can’t check in for your flight or check your bag, don’t worry — you can take a shuttle bus to get to the correct terminal. At the main terminal, the shuttle will be at the ground transportation center on the west end of the terminal. The shuttle ride from one terminal to the other will take 12 minutes. International travelers may want to allow some extra time the first time they use the terminal, in case of any wait or confusion.
Q: How can I get from the airport MARTA station to the international terminal?
A: A free shuttle bus runs between the airport MARTA station and the international terminal 24 hours a day, available to passengers only.
Q: How can visitors to Atlanta get to the rental car center?
A: A separate free shuttle bus will take travelers from the international terminal to the rental car center.
Q: Where do I pick up arriving international passengers?
A: Take I-75, exit 239 to the international terminal, where signs will point you toward the lower-level roadway for arriving passengers.
Q: Does the people-mover train go to Concourse F?
A: Yes, the train and the pedestrian walkway connect Concourse F with all other concourses. If you’re an Atlanta-bound international passenger going through Customs, you’ll exit into the international terminal arrivals area. You won’t be able to get through security to access the people-mover train to the main terminal, but you can take a shuttle to the main terminal. Also, Atlanta-bound passengers who arrive on Concourse E must walk to the international terminal to collect their baggage and exit. The walk varies from about a quarter mile to six-tenths of a mile long, though there are some moving walkways.
Q: Did the international terminal replace international Concourse E?
A: No, the international terminal and 12-gate Concourse F are in addition to the 28-gate Concourse E. They form what the airport calls a”40-gate international air travel complex.”