New International Terminal at ATL

Yes, there is a new international terminal opening tomorrow in Atlanta. No, I haven’t seen it in person … and I won’t for many months. Talk about poor timing.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I am a frequent international traveler. For 2012 I have been to Taipei three times plus one trip to Poland. I just got back from my last Taiwan trip on May 11 … only five days before the MAYNARD H. JACKSON JR. INTERNATIONAL TERMINAL opens in Atlanta. I have been really looking forward to this terminal, and it looks like I won’t be using it for a while.

First of all, why am I so excited about a new building attached to an airport? It has little to do with the design (which looks fantastic). It’s not due to additional security lanes being opened (which is a good thing, assuming they bring back the metal detectors). It’s not because there’s a separate drop off point for international departures (which will free up some of the traffic mess at the North & South Terminals).

It’s all about arrivals … how you get from customs to the curb.

I’ve ranted at length about the arrivals process for international passengers in Atlanta. It’s an epic cluster fornication: bad signage, useless ground staff and a layout that is unsympathetic to jet-lagged foreigners. The worst sin of the existing ATL international arrivals is re-clearing security … people staying in Atlanta have to back through security.

Why? It’s all about the airport layout. Local arrivals go back into the same airport that transferring passengers use, so there is a security risk if everyone doesn’t pass through the TSA’s gloved hands. The new international terminal removes this roadblock, so I can just take my bags and go home the next time I return from an international trip …

… which won’t be till October 🙁

This is a mixed blessing for me. On the plus side I am scheduled to stay out of airports for about two months. My next two trips (July & September) are domestic (Seattle & San Francisco). I can sleep in my own bed, have dinner with my friends, spend weekends with my wife and keep my suitcase in mothballs.

The downside: tomorrow’s first flight out of the international terminal is one of my favorites … Atlanta direct to Tokto-Narita (ATL-NRT). I’ll celebrate this new travel convenience from the ground. They can work the kinks out of the new terminal between now and my next international jaunt.

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