Hartsfield–Jackson had its beginnings with a five-year, rent-free lease on 287 acres (116 ha) that was an abandoned auto racetrack named The Atlanta Speedway. The lease was signed April 16, 1925, by Mayor Walter Sims, who committed the city to develop it into an airfield. As part of the agreement, the property was renamed Candler Field after its former owner, Coca-Cola tycoon and former Atlanta mayor Asa Candler. The first flight into Candler Field was September 15, 1926, a Florida Airways mail plane flying from Jacksonville, Florida. In May 1928, Pitcairn Aviation began service to Atlanta, followed in June 1930 by Delta Air Service. Later those two airlines, now known as Eastern Air Lines and Delta Air Lines, respectively, would both use Atlanta as their chief hubs. The airport's weather station became the official location for Atlanta's weather observations September 1, 1928, and records by the National Weather Service.
It was a busy airport from its inception and by the end of 1930 it was third behind New York City and Chicago for regular daily flights with sixteen arriving and departing. (In May 1931 Atlanta had four scheduled departures.) Candler Field's first control tower opened March 1939. The March 1939 Official Aviation Guide shows fourteen weekday airline departures: ten Eastern and four Delta.
In October 1940, the U.S. government declared it a military airfield and the United States Army Air Forces operated Atlanta Army Airfield jointly with Candler Field. The Air Force used the airport primarily to service many types of transient combat aircraft. During World War II the airport doubled in size and set a record of 1,700 takeoffs and landings in a single day, making it the nation's busiest in terms of flight operation. Atlanta Army Airfield closed after the war.
In 1946 Candler Field was renamed Atlanta Municipal Airport and by 1948, more than one million passengers passed through a war surplus hangar that served as a terminal building. Delta and Eastern had extensive networks from ATL, though Atlanta had no nonstop flights beyond Texas, St Louis and Chicago until 1961. Southern Airways established itself at ATL after the war and had short-haul routes around the Southeast until 1979.
On June 1, 1956, an Eastern Airlines flight to Montreal, Canada was the first scheduled international flight out of Atlanta. Atlanta's first scheduled trans-Atlantic flight was the Delta/Pan Am interchange DC-8 to Europe starting in 1964; the first scheduled nonstop to Mexico was Eastern's flight to Mexico City around 1972. Nonstops to Europe started in 1978 and to Asia in 1992–93.
In 1957 Atlanta saw its first jet airliner: a prototype Sud Aviation Caravelle that was touring the country arrived from Washington D.C. The first scheduled turbine airliners were Capital Viscounts in June 1956; the first scheduled jets were Delta DC-8s in September 1959.
Atlanta was the country's busiest airport, with more than two million passengers passing through in 1957 and, between noon and 2 p.m. each day, it became the world's busiest airport. (The April 1957 OAG shows 165 weekday departures from Atlanta, including 45 between 12:05 and 2:00 PM (and 20 between 2:25 and 4:25 AM). Chicago Midway had 414 weekday departures, including 48 between 12:00 and 2:00 PM. In 1957, Atlanta was the country's ninth-busiest airline airport by flight count and about the same by passenger count.)
That year work began on a new $21 million terminal which opened May 3, 1961. It was the largest in the country and could handle over six million travelers a year; the first year nine and a half million people passed through. In March 1962 the longest runway (9/27, now 8R) was 7,860 feet (2,400 m); runway 3 was 5,505 feet (1,678 m) and runway 15 was 7,220 feet (2,200 m) long.
The airport's terminal until the 1970s was located off Virginia Avenue, on the north side of the airport. It was designed around six pier concourses radiating from a central building. Construction began on the present midfield terminal in January 1977 under the administration of Mayor Maynard Jackson. It was the largest construction project in the South, costing $500 million. The complex was designed by Stevens & Wilkinson, Smith Hinchman & Grylls, and Minority Airport Architects & Planners. Renamed for former Atlanta mayor William B. Hartsfield, who did much to promote air travel, the airport reopened on September 21, 1980, on-time and under budget. It was designed to accommodate up to 55 million passengers per year and covered 2.5 million square feet (230,000 m²). In December 1984 a 9,000-foot (2,700 m) fourth parallel runway was completed and another runway was extended to 11,889 feet (3,624 m) the following year.
Although Eastern was a larger airline than Delta until airline deregulation in 1978, Delta was early to adopt the hub and spoke route system, with Atlanta as its primary hub between the Midwest and Florida, giving it an advantage in the Atlanta market. Eastern ceased operations in 1991 due to labor issues leaving Delta with Atlanta's only major airline hub. American Airlines considered establishing an Atlanta hub around the time of Eastern's demise, but determined Delta was too strong there and the competitive environment was more favorable at Eastern's other hub in Miami.
ValuJet was established in 1993 as low-cost competition for Delta at ATL. However, its safety practices were called into question early and the airline was grounded after the 1996 crash of ValuJet Flight 592. It resumed operations in 1997 as AirTran Airways and was the second-largest airline at ATL until it was acquired by Southwest Airlines in 2011 and fully absorbed into Southwest on December 28, 2014. Southwest is now the airport's second largest carrier.
In May 2001 construction of an over 9,000-foot (2,700 m) fifth runway (10–28) began. It was completed at a cost of $1.28 billion and opened on May 27, 2006. It bridges Interstate 285 (the Perimeter) on the airport's south side, making Hartsfield–Jackson the nation's only civil airport to have a runway above an interstate (although Runway 17R/35L at Stapleton International Airport in Denver, Colorado crossed Interstate 70 until that airport closed in 1995). The massive project, which involved putting fill dirt eleven-stories high in some places, destroyed some surrounding neighborhoods and dramatically changed the scenery of Flat Rock Cemetery and Hart Cemetery, both of which are on the airport property. It was added to help ease traffic problems caused by landing small- and mid-size aircraft on the longer runways used by larger planes such as the Boeing 777, which need longer runways than the smaller planes. With the fifth runway, Hartsfield–Jackson is one of only a few airports that can perform triple simultaneous landings. The fifth runway is expected to increase the capacity for landings and take-offs by 40%, from an average of 184 flights per hour to 237 flights per hour.
Along with the construction of the fifth runway, a new control tower was built to see the entire length of the runway. The new control tower is the tallest in the United States, with a height of over 398 feet (121 m). The old control tower, 585 feet (178 m) away from the new control tower, was demolished August 5, 2006.
Atlanta City Council voted on October 20, 2003, to change the name from Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport to the Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport, to honor former mayor Maynard Jackson, who died June 23, 2003. The council planned to rename the airport solely for Mayor Jackson, but public outcry prevented this.
In April 2007 an "end-around taxiway" opened, Taxiway Victor. It is expected to save an estimated $26 million to $30 million in fuel each year by allowing airplanes landing on the northernmost runway to taxi to the gate area without preventing other aircraft from taking off. The taxiway drops about 30 feet (9.1 m) from runway elevation to allow takeoffs to continue.
After the Southeastern U.S. drought of 2007, the airport (the eighth-largest water user in the state) made changes to reduce water usage. This included adjusting toilets, of which there are 725 commodes and 338 urinals, in addition to 601 sinks. (The two terminals alone use 917,000 gallons or about 3.5 million liters each day on average.) It also stopped using firetrucks to spray water over aircraft when the pilot made a last landing before retirement (a water salute). The city of Macon offered to sell water to the airport, through a proposed pipeline.
The airport today employs about 55,300 airline, ground transportation, concessionaire, security, federal government, City of Atlanta and Airport tenant employees and is the largest employment center in Georgia. With a payroll of $2.4 billion, the airport has a direct and indirect economic impact of $3.2 billion on the local and regional economy and an annual, regional economic impact of more than $19.8 billion. Since the opening of Concourse F in May 2012, the airport now has 200 gates which is the most at any airport.
In December 2015, the airport became the first airport in the world to serve 100 million passengers in a year.
In 1999, Hartsfield–Jackson's leadership established the Development Program: "Focus On the Future" involving multiple construction projects with the intention of preparing the airport to handle a projected demand of 121 million passengers in 2015. The program was originally budgeted at $5.4 billion over a ten-year period, but the total is now revised to be at over $9 billion.
The Hartsfield–Jackson Rental Car Center, which opened December 8, 2009, houses all ten airport rental agencies with capacity for additional companies. The complex features 9,900 parking spaces split between two four-story parking decks that together cover 2,800,000 square feet (260,000 m2), a 137,000-square-foot (12,700 m2) customer service center, and a maintenance center for vehicles that features 140 gas pumps and 30 wash bays equipped with a water recovery system. An automated people mover, the ATL SkyTrain, runs between the rental car center, the Domestic Terminal, and the Gateway Center of the Georgia International Convention Center, while a four-lane roadway that spans Interstate 85 connects the rental car center with the existing airport road network.
In July 2003, former Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin announced a new terminal to be named for Maynard H. Jackson, Jr.. The new international terminal would be built on the east side of the airport near International Concourse E, on a site that had been occupied by air cargo facilities and the midfield control tower. It has added twelve new gates able to hold wide-body jets, which can be converted to sixteen narrow-body gates, as well as check-in desks and a baggage claim area solely for international carriers. Additionally, the international terminal has its own parking lot just for international passengers with over 1,100 spaces. Arriving international passengers whose final destination is Atlanta can keep their luggage as they proceed to exit the airport. The new terminal is connected to Concourse E by the tram and also has ground transportation access via I-75. The new terminal was slated to open in 2006; however, time and cost overruns led former Airport General Manager Ben DeCosta to cancel the design contract in August 2005. The next day, the architect sued the airport claiming "fraud" and "bad faith", blaming the airport authority for the problems. In early 2007, the General Manager awarded a new design contract on the new international terminal to Atlanta Gateway Designers (AGD). Construction began in the summer of 2008. Estimates place the terminal's cost at $1.4 billion and it opened on May 16, 2012. The first departure was Delta Flight #295 to Tokyo–Narita, with the first arrival being Delta Flight #177 from Dublin.
In addition to Terminal F that allowed expanded international operations, sections of some midfield taxiways have been widened from 145 feet (44 m) to 162 feet (49 m) and a section of Runway 27R has been widened from 220 feet (67 m) to 250 feet (76 m) to accommodate Airbus A380 operations at the airport. Air France is considering whether they will commence A380 service from Atlanta, and Korean Air began daily service from Atlanta to Seoul on September 1, 2013. Additionally, two adjacent gates on Concourse E, Gates E1 and E3, have been retrofitted to allow lower-level boarding from one gate and upper-level boarding from the other, allowing for quick boarding and the facilitation of passengers to connecting flights around the airport.
On June 6, 2011, Atlanta City Council awarded a contract to the joint venture of Holder/Moody/Bryson to renovate and expand Concourse D. The plans called for 60,000 square feet (5,600 m2) of space added, two new escalators between the main level and the Transportation Mall, three new elevators between the second and third levels, and expanded food, beverage and retail outlets. The project budget was not to exceed $37 million and it was set for completion by spring 2014. The expansion was completed in July 2013 at a final cost of $47 million, with a total of 91,000 square feet (8,500 m2) of space added.
On August 28, 2014, the airport management unveiled a preliminary new master plan. Included in the preliminary master plan are the replacement of the existing domestic parking garages, an end-around taxiway and additional cargo facilities on the south side of the airport, the addition of three new international concourses (G, H, and I), the conversion of Concourse E to domestic use and a sixth runway.
On March 10, 2016, the final 20-year master plan was finalized. The final master plan includes the following:Modernization of the existing terminals.
Construction of Concourse G.
Expansion of Concourse D.
Extension of Concourse T.
Relocation of the turnback for The Plane Train.
Construction of a new parking deck next to the Georgia International Convention Center.
A new park-and-ride lot at Sullivan Road.
Replacement of the existing domestic parking garages.
A new hotel, travel plaza, and mixed use commercial complex.
Repaving of the existing runways and taxiways.
A new sixth runway.
A new end-around taxiway.
Replacement and relocation of cargo buildings, the fire station, and maintenance complexes.
Proposed Concourses H and I are not currently included in the final master plan, but may be added later if demand warrants in 2030 or later.
Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport has terminal and concourse space totaling 6,800,000 square feet (630,000 m2).
There are two terminals, the Domestic Terminal and the Maynard H. Jackson, Jr. International Terminal, where passengers check in and claim bags. The Domestic Terminal is on the west side of the airport, while the International Terminal is located on the east side of the airport, and includes customs and immigration services for international passengers.
The Domestic Terminal is on the western side of the airport. It is divided into two sides – Terminal South and Terminal North – for ticketing, check-in, and baggage claim. Delta is the sole tenant of Terminal South, while all other domestic airlines are located at Terminal North. The portion of the building between Terminal North and Terminal South includes the Atrium, which is a large, open seating area featuring concessionaires, a bank, conference rooms, an interfaith chapel and offices on the upper floors with the main security checkpoint, the Ground Transportation Center and a MARTA station on other levels.
International flights arrive and depart from the international terminal, either concourse E or F, located on the eastern side of the airport. Concourse F and the new international terminal opened May 16, 2012, while concourse E opened in September 1994, in anticipation of the 1996 Summer Olympics. International pre-cleared flights can arrive at concourses T & A–D. International flights can also depart from concourses T & A–D, such as when space is unavailable at concourses E or F, or when an aircraft arrives as a domestic flight and continues as an international flight. Furthermore, all international pre-cleared flights, regardless of origin, will collect their baggage at the international terminal.
Gates are located in seven concourses between the Domestic and International terminals. Concourse T is connected to the Domestic Terminal. The remaining six concourses from west to east are Concourses A, B, C, D, E, and F. Concourses A–D and T are used for domestic flights, while Concourses E and F are used for international flights and some domestic flights when gates at T or A–D are not available, or when an aircraft arrives as an international flight and continues as a domestic flight. Concourse F is directly connected to the International Terminal, while Concourse E has a designated walkway to the International Terminal and also has its own Federal Inspection station for connecting passengers. Delta Air Lines has gates and operations at all terminals. The gates and airlines at each concourse are:Concourse T: 17 gates (T1–T17) for American Airlines, Delta and United Airlines
Concourse A: 29 gates (A1–A7, A9–A12, A15–A21, A24–A34) for Delta
Concourse B: 32 gates (B1–B7, B9–B14, B16–B29, B31–B34, B36) for Delta
Concourse C: 48 gates (C1–C22, C30–53, C55, C57) for Delta and Southwest Airlines
Concourse D: 43 gates (D1, D1A, D2–D8, D8A, D9–D11, D11A, D12–D16, D21–D42, D44, D46) for Alaska Airlines, American, Delta, Frontier Airlines, and Spirit Airlines
Concourse E: 28 gates (E1–E12, E14–E18, E26–E36) and 3 stands (6NA–6NC) for Air France, British Airways, Delta, KLM, Korean Air, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic
Concourse F: 12 gates (F1–F10, F12, F14) for Air Canada, Air France, British Airways, Delta, KLM, Korean Air, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, Southwest Airlines, Turkish Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic
When the current passenger terminal opened in 1980, it consisted of only the domestic terminal, the north half of concourse T (which housed international flights), and concourses A-D. Concourse E opened in 1994 for international flights in time for the 1996 Summer Olympics, which were held in Atlanta. Once Concourse E was opened, Concourse T was converted to domestic use and the former U.S. Customs hall was converted into a dedicated baggage claim area for American Airlines. Concourse F and the International Terminal opened in 2012.
The terminals and concourses are connected by the Transportation Mall, a pedestrian tunnel with a series of moving walkways, and The Plane Train, an automated people mover. The Plane Train has stations along the Transportation Mall at the Domestic Terminal (which also serves Concourse T), at each of the six other concourses (including concourse F which is connected to the International Terminal), and at the baggage claim area. The Plane Train is the world's busiest automated system, with over 64 million riders in 2002.
At one time, there was a second underground walkway between Concourses B and C that connected the north ends of the two concourses and made it possible to transfer without returning to the center of the concourse. This was constructed for Eastern Airlines, which occupied these two terminals. This walkway is now closed, and its entrance at Concourse B has been replaced by a bank of arrival/departure monitors.Note: All international arrivals (except flights with customs pre-clearance) are handled at Concourses E and F.
Airline market share
Notes^1 Includes US Airways
The domestic terminal is accessed directly from Interstate 85 at exit 72. The international terminal is accessed directly from Interstate 75 at exit 239. These freeways in turn connect with the following additional freeways within 10 miles: Interstate 285, Interstate 675, Georgia State Route 166, Interstate 20.
Hartsfield–Jackson also has its own train station on the city's rapid transit system, MARTA. The above-ground station is inside in the main building, between the north and south domestic terminals on the west end. The Airport train station is currently the southernmost station in the MARTA system.
The 990 Toffie Terrace hangar, a part of Hartsfield–Jackson Airport, and located the City of College Park corporate limits, is owned by the City of Atlanta. The building now houses the Atlanta Police Department Helicopter Unit. It once served as the headquarters of the regional airline ExpressJet.
Before the merger, Atlantic Southeast Airlines headquartered in the hangar, then named the A-Tech Center. In December 2007, the airline announced it was moving its headquarters into the facility, previously named the "North Hangar." The 203,000-square-foot (18,900 m2) hangar includes 100,000 square feet (9,300 m2) of hangar bays for aircraft maintenance. It has 17 acres (6.9 ha) of adjacent land and 1,400 parking spaces for employees. The airline planned to relocate 100 employees from Macon, Georgia to the new headquarters. The Atlanta City Council and Mayor of Atlanta Shirley Franklin approved of the new 25-year ASA lease, which also gave the airline new hangar space to work on 15 to 25 aircraft in overnight maintenance; previously its aircraft were serviced at Concourse C. The airport property division stated that the hangar was built in the 1960s and renovated in the 1970s. Eastern Airlines and Delta Air Lines had previously occupied the hangar. Delta's lease originally was scheduled to expire in 2010, but the airline returned the lease to the City of Atlanta in 2005 as part of its bankruptcy settlement. The city collected an insurance settlement of almost $900,000 as a result of the cancellation.
Restaurant contracts at the airport are worth about $3 billion and complaints over the contracts fit into a historical pattern of allegations of "cronyism and political influence" at the airport. Concession company SSP America sued the City of Atlanta to challenge the methods used to award contracts, but this suit was dropped in 2012. Contracts are awarded on a preferential basis if a business qualifies as an "airport concessions disadvantaged business enterprise". The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) challenged the disadvantaged business status of four businesses—Mack II's, Hojeij Branded Foods, Atlanta Restaurant Partners and Vida Concessions—though a review by the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) in 2012 concluded that the evidence did not support decertifying the businesses, and the FAA said it will review the GDOT documents before possibly appealing to the U.S. Department of Transportation. An internal GDOT audit found calculation errors in 27 of 40 cases it reviewed for disadvantaged status.
As the dominant airport in the Southern United States and the nation's busiest in terms of passengers handled (mainly due to being Delta's flagship hub), an old joke in the South quips that, upon one's death, regardless of whether one goes to Heaven or Hell one will connect in Atlanta to get there.
Scenes from the movies Due Date and Life as We Know It, both released in 2010, were filmed and had scenes take place on location at Hartsfield Airport. Also, the films Unaccompanied Minors and Cabin Fever, released in 2006 and 2002 respectively, similarly featured Hartsfield Airport.
In a parody Star Wars episode of "Family Guy", Stewie Griffin, playing Darth Vader, joked that "Even though we're in a galaxy far, far away, we still had to connect in Atlanta."