I’m a consultant. That means my life is basically identical to George Clooney’s in the film, “Up In the Air,” only minus the attractive people in hotel bars, giant parties to crash, and the all night benders where you are magically fresh in the morning.
However, Clooney’s character and I do share a common thread, which is that I spent a good deal of time mucking about in airports. I’d like to pass on a bit of what I’ve learned over the past few years when it comes to navigating and cheating Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson airport.
Check In and Checking Bags
Most airlines have self check-in kiosks you can use. If you bought your ticket online, you can identify yourself by swiping the same credit card you used to make your purchase (you do not have to bring anything from home). The kiosk also asks you how many bags you would like to check (you can change the number if you have entered it before).
If you have 0 bags to check, print your ticket and head to security.
If you have > 0 bags to check, walk up to the airline’s counter after your ticket is printed
If you do not want to pay checked luggage fees (typically ~20-25 dollars per bag), carry your large bags through security. If they do not fit on the plane, they will be checked for free. Nice.
Main Security – the rat maze
Common sense applies here. Have your ID and ticket ready to view, and do not get behind any of the following types of people: parents with kids, asians, old people, or couples who are either arguing or deeply in love.
I’ve found that 9 times out of 10 you can leave your liquids/gels in your bags, and security will never check them. Things that will get you stopped 100% of the time are powders (in my case, packing whey protein powder) and medium sized electronics (iPod Stereos).
North and South Security – seriously, just go here
If it’s open, head to the North or South security checkpoints (they run parallel to the main security terminal). Do not listen to any TSA agents who may try to filter you back to main security. Their promises of a shorter line in main security may be true, but the North/South security lines are filled with businessmen that tend to move fast.
Eating in Hartsfield
Terminals are ranked from best to worst for food: E, B, A, T, C, D
Terminal E: The international terminal easily has the best food in the airport. It’s Atlanta’s way of saying: we don’t actually like anyone who lives here. If you’re lucky, you will have a grand piano player setting the mood while you eat. Another tidbit, Terminal E is the only place past security where you will be able to purchase a decent breakfast.
Terminal B: Café Intermezzo. Nuff said.
Terminal A: Decent food court, nothing more than mall food though.
Terminal T: Le Petit Bistro on the exit side of the South Security checkpoint is pretty damned decent. Otherwise you’re better off with the food court in Terminal A
Terminals C&D: Filled with anything gas stations throw out. It’s all here, and it smells terrible.
Getting a Better Boarding Zone
My friend and I used to Photoshop ‘Zone 2’ onto our Delta tickets before we had Delta Silver status. Your zone number does not appear on the scanner when the ticket agent swipes it, so a 2 minute computer job can get your bags and body on board relatively fast. I only know this works for Delta, keep on the lookout for other airlines you can pull this off with as well.
Stowing Your Luggage on Board
Basically, don’t be a douchebag here. Small bags and coats go under your seat (some airlines offer to hang your coats at the door), large carryons go overhead, and children are given xanex (just kidding, leave them in the streets). Any time you put your coat/laptop/etc in the overhead bins, you are forcing the plane to take off a little later due to more people having to check their bags.
Oh yeah, f**k Delta. F**k it hard. You will almost always find better deals and a happier staff with any other airline.