Last Updated on September 20, 2021 by Candy Wafford
Did you know that the Atlanta airport is within a two-hour flight to 80% of the United States? This is one of the reasons that Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, known as ATL, is the busiest airport in the world.
More than 107 million people flew through the ATL in 2018. Knowing it’s the busiest airport in the world often scares casual travelers from using this airport. But I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be scary. It’s actually a very easy airport to use.
I travel for work two to four times a month and I connect through the Atlanta airport on the majority of my trips. While a direct flight is preferred, sometimes you have to connect and I find the ATL the easiest airport to connect through in the US.
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I’ve included my insights and advice for navigating ATL and I’ve suggestions from co-workers that live in Atlanta and regularly fly through the world’s busiest airport. Here’s everything you need to know for getting around the Atlanta airport.
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Parking at ATL
Atlanta airport parking options include parking on-site as well as parking lots around the airport. One of my favorite ways to save money while traveling is to take advantage of park and fly options often offered by nearby hotels and private companies. In addition to on-site parking, you can find park and fly options making parking at the Atlanta airport easy to do.
PRO TIP – If you are running late you can park on the international side of the airport and will find security lines are shorter in this terminal. From there you can reach the domestic terminal using the plane train or walkways without re-entering security.
Checking In / Security
There are so many things to remember when checking in for a flight and going through security. This is especially true in an airport as large as Atlanta. Review my checklist for what you need to do before flying and I promise you will have a more relaxed experience!
At the Atlanta airport, you can check-in for domestic or international flights from either domestic or international terminals provided the airlines have a counter there. Most airlines especially Delta, have multiple counters on both sides.
The domestic terminal has two parts: South which serves Delta flights and North which serves all other airlines. The two terminals share a central atrium.
If you are a member of the CLEAR program you will find kiosks at the security checkpoints. Additionally, security lines are available for TSA Pre-Check.
PRO TIP – There is a small check-in on the south side which is typically faster than the main check-in security lines.
Getting around ATL
The Atlanta airport has 7 concourses – A, B, C, D, E, F, and T. I’m not sure why T instead of G. Concourse F is the international terminal and has its own entrance and exit. The international terminal in Atlanta can also be reached by train. More on that below.
Each concourse is approximately a half-mile in length. The entry point to the concourse is located in the center. If your gate is located at the end of a concourse, plan on a five to ten-minute walk to reach it.
A quick word of advice as you walk through the terminals. There is almost always a LOT of people at the airport. And it can feel overwhelming. Walk to the right so you don’t get run over. Move to the far right if you’re not in a hurry so that those rushing to catch a flight can move quickly. Same principle as driving on the highway. Slower traffic to the right.
The Atlanta Plane Train
All the concourses in the airport can be accessed via the plane train. The plane train is an easy way to move between concourses. Trains are accessed by elevators or escalators located in the middle of each concourse. Once you reach the trains you will find screens listing departures so you can double-check your gate.
The trains run about every two minutes which means you never have to wait long and the trains don’t get too crowded. One word of advice on the trains – hold on! A memory of my daughter falling when the train took off still makes me giggle. (She wasn’t hurt.) You will find seats at the end of each car for those that need to sit.
If you have time or would like some exercise you can walk between terminals. It only takes about five minutes to walk between each terminal and there are moving sidewalks during portions of the walk.
How Much Time for a Connection in Atlanta?
I recommend nothing less than an hour for a connection in Atlanta. Now, I regularly book flights that have less than that, but I travel frequently and am familiar with the airport. But I do have to run occasionally to make a flight. Allowing at least an hour will give you time to navigate from one concourse to the next and still have time to go to the restroom.
If Atlanta is your final destination, know that there are separate baggage claim areas for domestic and international flights. Make sure you take the correct train.
Things to do at the Atlanta Airport
Use the Free Wi-Fi
Free wi-fi is available throughout the airport. You will need to provide your email address; however, I’ve never received any unwanted emails. The speed is actually decent and I often use this service. It’s probably not fast enough for streaming but works very well for doing some work or checking your social media accounts.
There are lots of outlets at the gates so you can easily charge your electronics.
Chances are you’re going to want to grab a meal or something to eat while moving through the airport. With over 170 Atlanta airport restaurants you won’t go hungry. Food choices range from fast-food chains to sit down restaurants and everything in between.
Some of my favorite Atlanta airport food options include:
- Chipotle – D27 – Lines are often long but move quickly.
- Bobby’s Burger Palace B26- I’ve never actually eaten a burger here but I love their sweet potato fries and pistachio shakes.
- Nature’s Table E Food Court – Great vegan and vegetarian options. I’m a big fan of their Super Food Salad.
- Bojangles – T7 – They make a mean egg and cheese biscuit.
- Paschal’s – B Centerpoint – You’re in the south so you should try some Southern food and this is a great place to your fix or try some classic dishes like macaroni and cheese or greens.
- Cat Cora’s Kitchen – A25 – A nice place to sit down and enjoy a drink and some good food.
You can enjoy a drink at many restaurants in the airport or visit one of the many bars located throughout the airport. There is even a bar that features brews from a local Atlanta brewery.
See Art at the Atlanta Airport
There are permanent and rotating art exhibits throughout the airport which makes for a nice visual distraction among all the busyness. My favorite is the art installation “Flight Paths” between Concourses A and B.
PRO TIP – The Delta Flight Museum is a nice museum in the Delta headquarters which is adjacent to the airport and is only a short 3-5 minute Uber ride from the domestic or international terminal. This is a great option for those that have long layovers or time to kill before a flight.
There are by the hour sleeping pods available if you have a long connection and want to sleep for a bit. Minute Suites has locations at Concourse B at Gate B16 and Concourse T at T8. Private suites can be rented by the hour and feature a daybed with fresh pillows and sheets and other amenities to provide travelers a place to rest and relax before their flight. This is an especially nice option if you have a flight cancellation or delay.
An Interfaith Chapel is located is the Domestic Terminal on the third-floor (before security) and two additional chapels are located on Concourse E and Concourse F. Services are held at various times throughout the week.
Visit an Airport Lounge at Atlanta Airport
There are multiple airline lounges throughout the airport where members can grab a bite to eat, watch TV, or just take a break. Delta Sky Clubs are located in every Concourse and American and United have lounges located in Concourse T.
The Club at ATL is a common-use lounge that provides services to British Airways, Lufthansa, Priority Pass, Lounge Club, and Diners Club International. Day passes can be purchased for $40 and the club is located at Concourse F.
Service Animal Relief Areas
If you are traveling with a service animal, you can find indoor relief areas in every concourse (T7, A10, B33, C19, E14, and F7). Poochie Park is a 1,000 square-foot dog park in the ground transportation area on Domestic Terminal South.
There are XpresSpas located in Concourses A, C, and D. Travelers can get a quick massage to relax travel weary muscles as well as get a mani-pedi or other beauty treatment so you’ll be looking great when you get to your destination.
Leaving the Atlanta Airport
Your best bet is to take the MARTA if Atlanta is your final destination and there is a stop near your hotel. If you are taking an Uber or Lyft you will need to walk to the designated pickup area. It’s probably a 5-10 minute walk and it’s busy! Make sure you stay in the designated areas as the traffic here is pretty intense.
PRO TIP – If you are arriving without checked baggage and plan on using Uber or Lyft you can take the Plane Train to the international terminal and be picked up curbside.
Book That Flight Through Atlanta Airport!
The Atlanta Airport is easy to get around and offers lots of things to do making it a great airport to use. Using this information and tips you will be able to navigate the busiest airport in the world like a pro!
KellyOctober 5, 2019
OMG I hate this airport! I avoid it at all costs! I had a connecting flight there once with 20 minutes to board. I honestly felt like I was doing the amazing race lol
CandyOctober 6, 2019
It’s not bad once you get used to it. But I totally get the amazing race reference! I run through ATL frequently!
beckiOctober 6, 2019
Wow, this looks insane! I always try to avoid change overs in USA airports, my momories of Miami put me right off. They are just so big compared to most of the rest of the World. A useful post for an insane looking airpost.
CandyOctober 6, 2019
Thanks! Some of our airports are a lot to navigate.
Sage ScottOctober 6, 2019
Funny story: I once spent the night in the Atlanta airport while traveling back to Kansas City from Washington DC after Christmas break. It was a million years ago, when I was in college, and there were no cell phones and long-distance calls were outrageous. No hotel was offered, and I was traveling by myself. I wasn’t comfortable just sleeping on the floor like that, so I spent ALL night traveling back and forth on the train. Any time I travel through Atlanta now, I still have flashbacks. LOL!
CandyOctober 7, 2019
Oh no! What a story! I’ve come close, but never actually been stuck overnight in Atlanta. I was recently there at almost 1:00 AM and it was so weird to see it empty.
CostumelooksOctober 7, 2019
Since ATL can be overwhelming for first-time visitors, here s all you need to know about navigating terminals, parking, public transportation, dining and more at the world s busiest airport.
KristinaOctober 7, 2019
This looks like a great place for a stopover. Over 170 choices of food and an express spa!! I wouldnt mind. 😊😊
CandyOctober 7, 2019
I always tell people that there are plenty of food options and if I’m going to be in an airport, I gotta eat!
Reina E ConboyOctober 7, 2019
How funny, the very first time my flight ever got cancelled was in the Atlanta Airport. My friends and I had to make the choice of whether we wanted to stay the night in the airport or find a nearby hotel. Because it was the airport’s fault for cancelling our flight (due to overbooking) we chose the hotel. Needless to say, not a fan of this airport.
CandyOctober 11, 2019
It’s so busy that overbooking is common. There are a lot of thunderstorms in Atlanta in the summer and that creates lots of delays and cancellations too. But I find delays to be the norm these days. Sorry you had such an unpleasant experience!
AnitaOctober 11, 2019
So much useful and detailed information about the Atlanta airport. It’s great things to know for travelers. Thanks for sharing.
CandyOctober 11, 2019
I’m glad you found it useful. Thank you!
MohamedApril 27, 2020
Thank you so much for sharing this excellent post! Really helpful!
Hope you will be able to try Moroccan food in one of your next adventure trip to Morocco!
Welcome to any tips!
Candy WaffordMay 4, 2020
Thank you for your comment! I would like to visit Morocco and try Moroccan food someday!