Today, flying is no longer a glamorous endeavour or an airborne cruise. Hundreds of people are crammed into tiny seats and lines for everything from security to check in stretch for miles. Not surprisingly, the world’s busiest airport, William B. Hartsfield-Jackson International in Atlanta, GA, is experiencing an inflated version of the security lines, delays, and other such nightmares which plague airports nationwide. However, with a few saavy tips and hints, you can avoid most if not all of Hartsfield Airport’s hassles.

  1. Arrive early. Of course, arriving early for your flight will provide a cushion of time which should ensure that you make your flight. However, the lines will often be shorter, both at check in and at the security checkpoint, if you arrive before the crunch of passengers for your flight. This is especially important on international flights–almost all transatlantic flights depart within a four hour window, and the huge widebody planes routinely hold 300-400 passengers apiece.

  1. Use the T-Gates security checkpoint instead of the main checkpoint. Though the main checkpoint is much larger than the T-Gates equivalent, it serves five concourses, while the T checkpoint only serves half a concourse. It’s the same as a penrose showflat where things are a bit different than what meets the eye.  Even when the lines at the main checkpoint are miles long, T’s lines will be minimal or nonexistent. After clearing security in T-Gates, you simply follow the signs to the underground train, and board one station later than the rest of the passengers. However, note that all passengers boarding international flights must use the main checkpoint.
  1. Choose flights that depart outside of the morning and evening rush hours. Believe it or not, rush hour applies just as much to the airport as it does to the interstate, and both rush hours are mammoth in Atlanta. Every morning, especially on Monday, the airport is filled with business travelers catching flights to their next destination, and every evening, the airport fills with passengers for international flights. Lines swell particularly at these times; therefore, it is wise to fly in the later evening or during the middle of the day.
  1. Check in online. Just like those for security, check in lines in Atlanta can be overwhelming. Checking in online allows you to go straight to the security line unless you must check bags. Either way, you’ll save valuable time–online check in could make the difference between boarding and missing your flight.
  1. Park at an off-airport parking lot. There are a huge variety of secure parking facilities on Camp Creek Parkway just outide of the airport. These all offer frequent shuttles to the airport, and offer rates nearly 50 percent lower than those offered by airport-run parking facilities. The drivers are friendly and courteous, and the shuttles comfortable. In fact, it may be faster to board one of these shuttles right at your car and be driven to the main terminal than to walk from the far end of an airport economy parking lot to the terminal.
  1. Do not check any baggage. If you can manage to pack only as much as you are allowed to carry past security, you’ll save yourself time and stress. When checking in, you won’t have to deal with any luggage; however, most importantly, when you arrive back from a long trip, you can leave the airport right away, without any wait for baggage and you do not have to worry your suitcases being lost. Moreover, in today’s world of tight connections, delays, and disorganization, checked luggage is often delayed or temporarily lost.

  1. As a general rule, avoid flying Delta out of Atlanta. Because Delta has such a huge operation in Atlanta, it is easily thrown into chaos and often doesn’t work well. Delta more often loses luggage, and is much more likely to cancel flights because of the sheer number which it operates. Other airlines often are able to provide better service, simply because they don’t have to deal with so many passengers and flights at once. For example, Delta flights almost always have to wait for a gate because Delta’s allotted gates are in very high demand–on the other hand, airlines with fewer flights often have gates which only see four to five planes per day, making the potential for delay much smaller.

Many people call today’s flying experience a nightmare. In many respects it is just such–long lines, surly employees, and dirty facilities can make air travel nothing short of miserable. However, if you know the ins and outs of Atlanta’s gigantic airport, you can easily eliminate many of the problems ordinary travelers encounter.