“When you die, whether you go to heaven or hell, you have to change planes in Atlanta” is an expression among Southerners that was quoted in a 1980 Time magazine article. As of 2021 Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta is back to being the world’s busiest airport, a title it held for 22 years until the coronavirus pandemic upended travel in 2020. ATL is the primary hub for hometown Delta Air Lines, which accounts for about 80% of passengers using the airport. Downtown Atlanta is 11 miles north of the airport, or about 20 minutes driving time. Access to the domestic terminal on the west side of the airport is off Interstate 75 and the international terminal on the east side of the airport is off Interstate 85.
Atlanta airport’s Domestic Terminal and International Terminal are about a mile apart. Between the two terminals – and connected by the airport’s Plane Train automated underground people mover system – are five concourses containing the A-E gates. Additionally, the T gates are part of the Domestic Terminal and the F gates are part of the International Terminal. All totaled, ATL has 192 gates.
The Domestic Terminal contains Terminal South, taken up entirely by Delta (and often called the Delta Terminal) and Terminal North, which houses all other domestic airlines serving the airport. The International Terminal serves the international airlines at ATL, as well as Delta’s international flights.
Ground transportation options include taxis, car services, shuttles, app-based rides, car rentals and public transportation. Passengers will find the first three curbside outside the west exits from baggage claim. App-based ride services meet passengers outside the lower level of the North Domestic terminal. (Passengers arriving at the South terminal should follow signage to the North terminal and take an escalator or elevator down from baggage claim to the lower level then follow the orange signs). To reach the airport’s Rental Car Center follow overhead signs to the west end exit of the domestic terminal and take the SkyTrain for the 5-minute ride to the center.
Two train lines of MARTA, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, operate on a schedule departing from the Domestic Terminal baggage claim area every 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the time of day. The Georgia International Convention Center can be reached by way of the free SkyTrain automated people mover.
Delta Air Lines uses gates on every concourse at Atlanta’s airport. Connecting passengers can use a pedestrian mall with moving walkways or the Plane Train to travel between concourses without exiting the TSA secure area. Passengers arriving on international flights who did not pre-clear U.S. Customs at their departure airport, must exit the TSA secure area after reclaiming bags and be re-screened but then can use the Plane Train to go directly to a connecting gate. Arriving international passengers who need to check-in at the airline’s ticket counter should use the Terminal Connector Shuttle outside the secure area on the arrivals level of the International Terminal to go to the Domestic Terminal where they can go through the TSA checkpoint. Delta’s check-in counters and baggage claim for domestic flights are in Terminal South.
Literally rising from the ashes of being almost entirely burned to the ground during the American Civil War, Atlanta today is now the epitome of the “New South” as a commercial center, modern architecture, as well as diverse dining and cultural offerings.
Get ideas for a visit from the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau.
The proliferation probably has to do with the state’s famous Georgia peaches, but many historians believe the name is derived from a corruption of Standing Pitch Tree, the name of a Coweta Creek tribal village that until the late 1700s was near what is now Buckhead. Pitch refers to the hardening sap in the pine trees growing in the area. Learn more about Peachtree streets here.
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