Holiday travel guide to Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Intl Airport

11/23/2020 —  Atlanta, Georgia —at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta , Monday, November 23, 2020.  (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
11/23/2020 — Atlanta, Georgia —at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta , Monday, November 23, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

The COVID-19 pandemic has driven a multitude of changes for air travel

It’s time for the holiday rush at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, and this year amid the coronavirus pandemic, those who do travel could face a very different experience at the airport and in the air.

There are a slew of new policies, requirements and closures due to COVID-19 safety measures and the sharp decline in travel that has taken a toll on airline and airport businesses.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention now recommends against travel for Thanksgiving. “For Americans who decide to travel, CDC recommends doing so as safely as possible” by wearing a mask in public, staying six feet away from others and washing or sanitizing your hands often.

Airlines are waiving change fees for those who want to change their travel plans.

If you are traveling, knowing what to expect can increase your chances of expertly handling the new protocols.

Here’s a guide for our readers on the latest updates for travelers, so if you have to fly, you’re prepared to navigate the Atlanta airport and get to your destination safely.

11/23/2020 �  Atlanta, Georgia �Airport guests crowd the North Domestic Terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta , Monday, November 23, 2020.  (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
11/23/2020 � Atlanta, Georgia �Airport guests crowd the North Domestic Terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta , Monday, November 23, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

COVID-19 MEASURES

WHAT TO PACK

Bring a mask.

Masks are required in the airport and on Delta, Southwest and other major airlines.

For a multi-day trip, bring an extra mask or two in case you lose one, or cough or sneeze into one. The airport will provide a free mask on request at the main security checkpoint if you forget yours. Delta, the largest carrier at Hartsfield-Jackson, is offering customer care kits including a hand sanitizer wipe and mask.

The Transportation Security Administration now allows extra flexibility for hand sanitizer, permitting one bottle of up to 12 oz. of hand sanitizer per passenger in carry-on bags. You will need to allow extra time at security screening for the bottle to be screened separately, since it’s larger than the typical limit of 3.4 oz. on other liquids.

You can also bring disinfecting wipes in carry-on bags to wipe down surfaces in the airport or on the plane, if desired.

Hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes are also permitted in checked bags.

09/04/2020 -Atlanta, Georgia - Delta Air Lines customers wear masks as they wait to be served at the ticker counter in the domestic terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Friday, September 4, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
09/04/2020 -Atlanta, Georgia - Delta Air Lines customers wear masks as they wait to be served at the ticker counter in the domestic terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Friday, September 4, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

AT THE AIRPORT

Hartsfield-Jackson may look different than you’re used to, due to the addition of plexiglass dividers, social distancing markers and some closed concessions amid the pandemic.

The airport has hand sanitizer dispensers throughout the terminal. Officials say public areas of the airport are being cleaned more frequently. Concessionaires and airlines have added more touchless options.

There are now upper-level pedestrian bridges connecting the domestic terminal to the upper levels of the Terminal South and Terminal North parking decks. Take escalators up from the main level of the domestic terminal to reach the pedestrian bridge on each side of the terminal.

Airport officials suggest passengers consider walking to their concourse through the underground walkways instead of taking the Plane Train people-mover, to avoid crowds and reduce congestion on the train. The airport’s Transportation Mall underground walkways have art and exhibits on display between concourses.

Due to the reduction in flights, the north arm of Concourse C is closed, while other terminals and concourses remain open.

11/23/2020 �  Atlanta, Georgia �A woman and child, dressed in a disposable hazmat suit walk through the Domestic Terminal atrium at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta , Monday, November 23, 2020.  (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
11/23/2020 � Atlanta, Georgia �A woman and child, dressed in a disposable hazmat suit walk through the Domestic Terminal atrium at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta , Monday, November 23, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

CONCESSIONS

Some restaurants and shops at the airport remain closed, and airlines have significantly cut back their in-flight service amid the pandemic. So consider bringing snacks or food for your trip, while keeping in mind the limits on liquids.

Hartsfield-Jackson has information on its website on which concessions are open.

If you plan to buy food in the domestic terminal before going through security, be aware that you cannot bring liquids of more than 3.4 oz. through the security checkpoint and officers may ask travelers to separate some food from carry-ons for screening in X-ray machines.

In the domestic terminal atrium, Starbucks, Popeyes, Burger King, TGI Fridays, Auntie Anne’s Pretzels and Piedmont Park TravelMart are open. Still closed are Atlanta ChopHouse, IHOP, Shane’s Rib Shack and Teriyaki Experience.

While you can’t bring beverages through screening, you can bring an empty water bottle from home and fill it up at filling stations on the concourses, or if there are concessions open near your gate you can buy a beverage there after passing through security.

11/23/2020 �  Atlanta, Georgia �Auntie Anne�s and Starbucks are open in the Domestic Terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta , Monday, November 23, 2020.  (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
11/23/2020 � Atlanta, Georgia �Auntie Anne�s and Starbucks are open in the Domestic Terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta , Monday, November 23, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

IN THE AIR

Masks

Delta, Southwest, American, United, Spirit, Frontier and other carriers require passengers to wear masks. The major airlines are banning passengers who refuse to comply. If you are put on a no-fly list due to not wearing a mask on the plane, it could jeopardize your ability to get on a connecting flight or take your return flight back home.

If you forget your mask, the airport can supply one to you at the main security checkpoint.

11/23/2020 �  Atlanta, Georgia �Face masks are given away in the Domestic Terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta , Monday, November 23, 2020.  (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
11/23/2020 � Atlanta, Georgia �Face masks are given away in the Domestic Terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta , Monday, November 23, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Middle seats

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines is blocking middle seats on its planes through the holidays and through March 30, 2021. It is capping seating on its planes at 75% capacity in the main cabin, however that doesn’t necessarily guarantee passengers will have an empty seat next to them.

That’s because not all airplanes have middle seats. On smaller aircraft like Delta Connection regional jets with two seats on each side of the aisle per row, passengers could still be seated directly next to a stranger. Delta says it will block “select aisle seats” on those aircraft.

Southwest Airlines, the second-largest carrier in Atlanta, is blocking middle seats through Nov. 30. Alaska Airlines is blocking middle seats until Jan. 6.

United, American and other airlines are not blocking middle seats.

Cabin environment

Airlines have touted the role of HEPA filters and vertical air flows that limit the spread of particles among passengers on a plane, as well as their addition of electrostatic disinfectant spraying in the cabin.

The airline industry commissioned a Harvard study that said mask requirements, constant ventilation and air flow, regular cleaning and sanitizing of airplanes contribute to reduced risk of coronavirus transmission on aircraft. There have been studies of transmission onboard planes, mainly prior to mask requirements. The Harvard study said “the research to date indicates a relatively low risk of acquiring SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) while flying.”

Delta now boards its planes from back to front, in an attempt to minimize crowding in the aisles. Passengers should try to ensure they allow for social distancing while boarding and deplaning.

11/23/2020 �  Atlanta, Georgia �A Delta Air Lines employee handles a passengers luggage while wearing goggle, gloves and a face mask in the Domestic Terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta , Monday, November 23, 2020.  (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
11/23/2020 � Atlanta, Georgia �A Delta Air Lines employee handles a passengers luggage while wearing goggle, gloves and a face mask in the Domestic Terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta , Monday, November 23, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

HOW EARLY SHOULD YOU GET TO THE AIRPORT?

Officials in Atlanta recommend getting to the airport terminal at least two hours before flights.

You can get updates on parking, security wait times, concessionaires and flight information at the airport’s website: atl.com.

If you are picking up or dropping off family or friends at the domestic terminal, the airport recommends using the Terminal North and Terminal South upper levels.

11/23/2020 �  Atlanta, Georgia �Airport passengers arrive and depart at the Domestic Terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta , Monday, November 23, 2020.  (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
11/23/2020 � Atlanta, Georgia �Airport passengers arrive and depart at the Domestic Terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta , Monday, November 23, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

ALLOW EXTRA TIME TO:

|Navigate airport roads

|Find parking

|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.)

11/23/2020 �  Atlanta, Georgia �Airport passengers maneuver through the South Domestic Terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta , Monday, November 23, 2020.  (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
11/23/2020 � Atlanta, Georgia �Airport passengers maneuver through the South Domestic Terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta , Monday, November 23, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

PARKING:

Hartsfield-Jackson has closed its on-airport park-ride lots at the domestic terminal.

However, hourly, daily and economy parking are open at the domestic terminal. And at the international terminal, the hourly parking deck and park-ride parking deck are both open.

The airport has adjusted its parking rates due to COVID-19. The new rates are: $24 a day for hourly parking, $14 a day for daily parking, $10 a day for economy parking and $12 a day for international terminal park-ride.

In the hourly parking decks at the domestic terminal, the rates are $3 an hour for the first two hours.

For off-airport parking lots, it’s a good idea to check with the parking lot operator for any changes or new policies.

UBER, LYFT PICKUP ZONES: Uber and Lyft pickups at the domestic terminal are now at the lower level curbside, instead of at designated pickup zones that were a farther walk away from the terminal. The steep decline in passenger counts and drop in Uber and Lyft traffic has reduced congestion, allowing ride share pickups to be accommodated at the curbside.

SHUTTLES: The airport continues to operate its terminal-to-terminal International Shuttle Connector in between the domestic and international terminals, as well as its international park-ride shuttle. However, other airport-run shuttles have been suspended amid the pandemic.

TRIBUTE WALL: A wall in tribute to the late civil rights icon U.S. Rep. John Lewis is in the domestic terminal atrium. Lewis died July 17, 2020. The tribute wall has been in place since 2019.

The "John Lewis-Good Trouble" tribute wall is in the domestic terminal atrium area, with historical artifacts, audio and visual installations and tributes to U.S. Congressman John Lewis. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
The "John Lewis-Good Trouble" tribute wall is in the domestic terminal atrium area, with historical artifacts, audio and visual installations and tributes to U.S. Congressman John Lewis. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

AIRLINES

Check for travel restrictions before your trip through your airline or other resources. Delta Air Lines has an interactive map to show travel requirements for different destinations. Southwest Airlines lists on its website its destinations with operational restrictions. The CDC also has travel health notices for different countries and the State Department also issues country-specific travel advisories.

You can use airlines’ apps and websites to check in online and seek customer service, reducing touchpoints and crowds at the airport.

AIRPORT SECURITY

Hartsfield-Jackson has three checkpoints in the domestic terminal, including the Main checkpoint, the North checkpoint, and a newly expanded and reopened South checkpoint.

11/23/2020 �  Atlanta, Georgia �The new South checkpoint security screening area at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Domestic Terminal in Atlanta , Monday, November 23, 2020.  (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
11/23/2020 � Atlanta, Georgia �The new South checkpoint security screening area at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Domestic Terminal in Atlanta , Monday, November 23, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

If you’re a PreCheck member, go to the new South checkpoint, which has new CT (computed tomography) machines at automated smart lanes. Non-PreCheck members can use the Main or North checkpoints.

At the international terminal, the main security checkpoint is closed and the airport is instead using the lower-level security screening checkpoint.

You may be asked to briefly shift your mask for the TSA officer to verify your identity.

SECURITY LINE CHOICES:

Standard, PreCheck and Clear. You can check the airport’s website at atl.com/times for security wait times. Lines may look longer than normal because of distancing between people in queues.

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.

TSA PRECHECK:

The TSA PreCheck lines at the domestic terminal will be at the South checkpoint, instead of at the Main checkpoint as they have been in the past.

TSA PreCheck offers expedited screening, with the chance to keep on your shoes, belt and jacket and leave liquids in your suitcase. It costs $85 for five years.

TSA has been encouraging travelers to sign up for PreCheck before holiday travel this year to get through screening more efficiently and reduce touchpoints such as the need to handle a bin in many cases.

You can apply online and schedule an appointment at a PreCheck enrollment center. There is a registration center in Hartsfield-Jackson’s Concourse A, as well as other locations inside Staples stores.

CLEAR:

Biometric ID technology firm Clear operates specially designated security lines for its members at Hartsfield-Jackson. The company sells memberships for $179 a year, with discounts for Delta SkyMiles members.

Clear has shifted to touchless identity verification, in which members verify their identities through an iris scan or facial recognition.

The Clear line at the South checkpoint is now for PreCheck-enrolled Clear members. The Clear line at the Main checkpoint is for non-PreCheck Clear members going through standard security.

11/23/2020 �  Atlanta, Georgia �A Clear retractable belt barrier is displayed at the new South checkpoint security screening in the Domestic Terminal at the airport in Atlanta , Monday, November 23, 2020.  (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
11/23/2020 � Atlanta, Georgia �A Clear retractable belt barrier is displayed at the new South checkpoint security screening in the Domestic Terminal at the airport in Atlanta , Monday, November 23, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

TSA SMART LANES:

Most of the lanes at the Transportation Security Administration’s domestic security checkpoints are automated screening lanes.

The “smart” automated screening lanes are aimed at speeding the process of security screening, but they require a different process for travelers and can take some getting used to.

If you are in the domestic terminal at an automated screening lane with larger bins and metal conveyors, here’s what you need to know:

1 If you’re next in line and any of the 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.

2 Everything must go into a bin, including roll-aboard suitcases and other carry-on luggage. And be aware that oversized carry-on luggage won’t fit, even though the bins are 25% larger.

3 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.

4 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.

11/23/2020 —  Atlanta, Georgia —at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta , Monday, November 23, 2020.  (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
11/23/2020 — Atlanta, Georgia —at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta , Monday, November 23, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

INTERNATIONAL

Take escalators or elevators down to the lower level from the check-in area to get to the lower-level security checkpoint.

This checkpoint is normally used by arriving passengers who flew in on international flights, passed through Customs and must pass through security screening to board connecting flights. But amid the sharp decline in international travel due to COVID-19 and quarantine requirements, the checkpoint is now being used for security screening of departing international passengers.

REAL ID DELAY:

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government has delayed plans to start requiring travelers to have “Real ID” designated driver licenses or IDs to get through airport security checkpoints. The “Real ID” requirement will now take effect October 1, 2021. Most Georgia drivers have the updated Real ID licenses with a star in the top right corner but those with older licenses that are not Real ID compliant should get new licenses if they plan to use them during air travel in October 2021 or later.

11/23/2020 �  Atlanta, Georgia �People walk through the atrium in the Domestic Terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta , Monday, November 23, 2020.  (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
11/23/2020 � Atlanta, Georgia �People walk through the atrium in the Domestic Terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta , Monday, November 23, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

TERMINAL SOUTH |Delta

TERMINAL NORTH |Southwest |American |Frontier |Spirit |JetBlue |United |Alaska Airlines |Boutique Airlines

INTERNATIONAL TERMINAL |Delta |Air Canada |Air France |British Airways |KLM |Korean Air |Lufthansa |Qatar Airways |Turkish Airlines |Virgin Atlantic

Find more travel tips at AJC.com/travel

11/23/2020 �  Atlanta, Georgia �An elderly man wearing a face mask and a face shield holds onto hi luggage while waiting to be picked-up from the Domestic Terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta , Monday, November 23, 2020.  (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
11/23/2020 � Atlanta, Georgia �An elderly man wearing a face mask and a face shield holds onto hi luggage while waiting to be picked-up from the Domestic Terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta , Monday, November 23, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

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