Our Airport, Atlanta
Many people seem to find the layout of the Atlanta airport confusing. Once you have seen the layout, however, you will see how simple the place is.
There is a main terminal with checkin counters on the north and south sides of the terminal. These are called, amazingly enough, the North and South terminal. They are in the same building, so just remember that it is just the way the airport has named it and not different physical structures. There are also gates for flights from the main terminal. These are called the T-Gates. There are 5 more separate buildings housing Concourse A-E for handling the capacity of the airport.
There is a train every few minutes that goes from the main terminal to terminal E. If you are arriving, however, make sure you stay on the train to the baggage claim area as it is quite a walk from the T-Gates (terminal gates) to baggage claim. When you go up the very large escalator to baggage claim, the south terminal will be to your left and the north to your right. If you need to rent a car, the rental agencies are directly in front of you at the top of the escalator.
(and it looks like the photo is messed up so I will work on it to get the correct picture online.)
The international terminal can be a bit confusing when going through customs/immigration. The Atlanta airport was designed pre-911 and as such there were security issues that had to be implemented after it was built. Probably the most annoying is that when you arrive in the international terminal, you are re-united with your checked luggage. Unfortunately, there are items which are allowed to be checked that you are not allowed to carry on board with you. This makes it necessary to go through security before leaving the arrival area as you will leave there to re-enter the main terminals. :-( This is highly annoying, especially for those whose intended destination is Atlanta as bags have to be re-checked for transport to the main baggage claim area.
Atlanta has had one of the top 10 busiest passenger airports in the world for quite a few years now. It has been the worlds busiest several times in the last 10 years, and there are always airplanes and their contrails overhead....
Busy morning at work, raced to the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson airport. Two flights to catch and getting stressed. Returned hired car and caught the shuttle bus. Magic, didn’t stop laughing all the way to the North Terminal. Catch him on YouTube. This is a must.
Archie Hertz to ATL
Our airport, compared to others that I have been to around the world, is OK. It is kind of big, but there are people mover belts that go from gate to gate and also to baggage claim. Usually when arriving, lets say from another country, you get your bags and then they will take you to Customs, which all depends on when you come through as to if it is busy that day, then you have to recheck your bags (easy, just drop it off at the belt ) and then go on to the terminal and baggage claim rounds. Ground transportation is close by here, like taxis, Marta train into Atlanta, and other options. There are lots of folk around if you have questions and they try to keep the undesirables away from arriving visitors.
6000 North Terminal Parkway
Our new International Terminal is now operational for those leaving Atlanta for another country...No longer do you have to re-check bags when getting back home, but there is a fairly long walk from exiting your plane to Customs----They are trying to re-work the area so the walk is not so long------
Many people complain about the Atlanta airport being confusing, but once you have seen the layout of the airport, it is immediately sensible in design. (well, I have an issue with international arrivals having to recheck their bags when Atlanta is their destination. I spend more time doing that and re-reclaiming my bags than it would take me to get home! )
There are basically 6 buildings, all parallel to each other with an underground train running between them all. E Terminal is the international terminal and A-D are where most of the rest of the flights depart from. The main terminal houses ticketing, check in, baggage claim, security, etc and there are some gates in the main terminal call the T-gates.
The train runs every 1-2 minutes or so and you shouldn't experience much of a wait if you missed one. Alternatively, there is a walkway between each of the terminals if you have the time, want the exercise or just don't like crowds. But even that does not take long to navigate between terminals.
Atlanta Airport is the hub for Delta Airlines. I have been through the airport several times on my way from the northeast to such areas as Fort Walton Beach, FL, and Biloxi, MS. This is a huge airport with 5 separate runways and terminals connected by a passenger train. Atlanta is also the world's busiest airport in terms of passengers and takeoffs and landings with some 86 million people transiting the airport each year--that's about 10 million more people than the world's second busiest airport, Chicago O'Hare.
I had a wonderful trip with Delta in 2008 but 2009 was the opposite. Our incoming flight from Tucson was delayed though landed only 5 minutes late. It took a while longer to find a gate to park up but we legged it from Terminal A to terminal E arriving as they called "5 minutes before gate closes" only to find they had already boarded other passengers in our places. Now it seems it is a fact of life that flights are oversold but we weren't even late. To add insult to injury none of the desk staff would look us in the eye to explain what was happening - there was a general air of panic as I guess they know thay had screwed up. We then were told our hotel and meals would be fully paid for only to find later that this was not the case. As we were led fro the gate they were still boarding other passengers! The booking desk was pretty poor as well and had we not had someone in our party who knew how things should work we would not have been "given" an overnight pack - something that is obviously prepared for just our situation where we had only what we stood up in and our hand luggage to take us through the next 24 hours. Why couldnt they offer it without being asked?
To give credit to Delta, we complained on our return home and they were very prompt in giving us a credit voucher. but how sad it had to come to that.
We drove 13 hours from New Jersey. It was a long drive. Flying would probably be the most convenient since I'm sure Atlanta's airport supports many airlines being that it's a major U.S. hub. A train ride might be fun too!
The HARTSFIELD Airport is excellent. It was renovated before the Olympic Games and it's really nice. It is also the busiest airport in the U.S. Don't worry though. I think it's really well organized and the info is outstanding.
BY PLANE: go to Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport www.atlanta-atl.com
ride MARTA (metropolitan atlanta rapid transit authority)-bus and rail. it costs $1.75 o/w. it's clean (no food or drinks allowed) and timely. www.itsmarta.com
The first time I went to downtown I had no idea about Marta. So I took a cab that cost me 34 usd (there is a flat fare from the airport to downtown). The day after I experienced Marta: from Peachthree Av. to the airport it cost 1.75 usd and takes 20-25 minutes.
I would not rely on your domestic (in the US) terminals to remain the same. They GENERALLY have a routine, but it is pretty loose depending on weather, delays, mechanical, etc. If one gate remains occupied too long, the previous flight arrives late, etc the terminals or the gates in the terminals may change.
However, the gates that the flights are actually departing on are pretty clearly marked in all of the terminals and moving from terminal to terminal is very easy with the train. Atlanta is a very busy airport so you will have a huge bustle of people. However getting around is very straight forward. You can take a look at the airports web site for the layout of the terminals. Once you have seen an overhead view of the layout it becomes amazingly simple.
Link to the terminal overview: http://www.atlanta-airport.com/sublevels/terminal/termmap.htm
Link to page for international passengers: http://www.atlanta-airport.com/sublevels/customer_service/arriv_intl.htm
The map on the official website leaves a lot to be desired in the very basic overview of the terminals. Each terminal has its own page and there is a tiny representation of the 6 terminals (main/T terminal and terminals A-E). I grabbed some of the overviews and pasted them together on my Atlanta/Transportation page. Like I said, once you've seen the general layout, the terminals are no longer confusing.
I had a very good trip through Atlanta. It was very easy to move around which was just as well as having settled down at my "out" gate to Tucson, within a couple of minutes they changed the gate and I ended up having to go all the way back to the terminal I had arrived at! Sadly that also involved a 40 minute delay but overall the experience was fairly stress free and even the food was good. If you move between terminals on the shuttle (very likely) hold tight as it can be quite fierce on acceleration and braking - if you are at all unsteady wait at the front/back where the are a couple of seats. Have to say that the guy on my immigration desk was probably the friendliest I have everencountered in the US - actually smiled and chatted which makes a change :)
Atlanta Airport, known as the largest/busiest airport in the world indeed is a large airport. Just be aware when catching a flight, the check in procedure and to get to the gate (which might be several "metro" stops after check in, takes some time. Enough restaurants at the airport, the tax free zone has some great deals (at least, if ur from EU), the KLM/Delta lounge (in the gate where KLM departures) is so standard that you wonder why there were so many people.