Atlanta Airport Connections: Guide to ATL Layovers

Throughout my travels I transit through the Atlanta Airport several times per month. I’d like to share my Atlanta Airport Layover Tips and Trick If you fly Delta with any regularity, it’s likely ATL is on your itinerary as a layover. The good news is that the ATL airport layout is easy to navigate, has tons of amenities, and is a pleasant place to have a layover. It is important to remember that ATL is the most trafficked passenger airport in the world, so while it may be busy it never feels overcrowded.

Atlanta Airport

1 :Atlanta Airport Connections: Guide to ATL Layovers

     1.1: ATL Airport Layout
     1.2: ATL Airport Getting Around
     1.3: ATL Airport Plane Train
     1.4: ATL Airport Walking Between Concourses
     1.5: ATL Airport Minimum Connection Time
     1.6: ATL Airport Restaurants
     1.7: ATL Airport Lounges
     1.8: ATL Airport Final Thoughts

ATL Airport Layout

ATL airport layout map

The Atlanta Airport has 7 concourses arranged from T, A, B, C, D, E, F running from west to east. T is the domestic head of house that includes security and baggage claim for domestic flights. F includes International check-in and baggage claim.

If you’re making a connection dealing with security and baggage claim won’t be necessary. The airline will transfer your bags to your final destination, assuming you checked them in that way.

While ATL technically has two terminals, North Terminal and South Terminal, that doesn’t matter for connecting flights. Simply look at the concourse the flights will be arriving and departing.

Depending on what airline you are flying you may need to transfer to a different concourse. Some airlines like Southwest Airlines are nearly contained in a single concourse so it’s unlikely you’ll need to change. Other airlines like Delta Air Lines occupy gates in every concourse so making a connection might cover more distance.

ATL Airport Getting Around

ATL airport concourse

Throughout the Atlanta Airport there are lots of signs directing you where you need to be. Wherever you are, look up and there will be some directions. I like to use the airline app to find my next gate, but the Atlanta Airport also has lot’s of signs showing departure gates.

In each of the concourses there is a golf cart shuttle that can be flagged down, it’s not much faster that walking, but if you’re not comfortable moving on your feet, it is a good way for people with mobility issues to travel.

Each of the airlines can also arrange a wheelchair for people who need more help.

ATL Airport Plane Train

If you need to change concourses, the Atlanta Airport has an underground train that connects all of the concourses. From end to end the ride is less than 7 minutes and trains run at most every 2 minutes, 24 hours per day. The train stations are at the middle of each concourse, and are well marked.

To use the ATL Plane Train head down the escalator to the train station. Most concourses you’ll have two different stations, one heads west the other east. But before you get on the train, make sure you’re heading the correct direction.

Above the train doors is another sign. This is how you insure you’re heading the correct direction. It also tells you how long until the next train arrives.

ATL airport plane train

Unlike most subway trains, there are protective doors to keep people off the tracks and safe. When trains arrive and depart there are announcements.

ATL airport plane train

There are very few seats on these trains. Only at the very front and rear of each car is there a bench. There are plenty of handles and hand rails to hold to while the train is moving. The train also makes announcements at each concourse station it arrives and departs.

A quick ATL Plane Train tip is when you get off the escalator, turn to the right and try to ride in the rear most car. This car is usually the least crowded. The same is true of the first car, if you just missed a train, walk to the end of the platform, the front car is also not crowded.

ATL airport plane train

If you ride in the first or last car you can watch the tunnel. These trains don’t have a driver and are completely automated so there’s a great view of the tracks. These trains actually run on tires and concrete rails, this is very similar to the Paris Metro system.

Once you arrive at your destination concourse, the gates are up the escalator again. Riding between each stop takes about 90 seconds. The only exception is between E and F, that takes a few seconds longer due to the shape of the E Concourse.

The ATL Plane Train is an easy way to get between all of the concourses at the Atlanta Airport. There are no restrictions on what concourses you can go. Domestic and International terminals are all connected airside and once you’re past security, you don’t need to exit and re-clear like other airports.

ATL Airport Walking Between Concourses

ATL airport tunnel

Another option instead of riding the train is you can walk between the concourses. A-D are not very far apart from each other and there are moving sidewalks connecting them. If you just missed a train, there’s not much time difference in waiting for the next train and walking one concourse. If it’s more than just one concourse waiting for the train is faster.

Between A and B there is this cool jungle themed celling. While not as cool as the Detroit Tunnel, it’s worth the walk.

ATL airport tunnel

Each of the tunnels are different. Walking between D and E there is some Atlanta history to read. Much of it is related to abolitionists and civil rights icons. If you have the time, it’s worth the trip to read.

I wouldn’t recommend walking the full distance of the tunnel if you’re in a hurry, but it’s about 1.25 miles long so if you’re looking for some exercise, it’s about a 20 minute walk from end to end if you’re moving quickly.

Walking between each concourse takes about 5 minutes.

ATL Airport Minimum Connection Time

How much time you need for an Atlanta airport layover is both subjective and definitive at same time. For example, on a domestic to domestic connection with Delta Air Lines, by the book the minimum connection time is 35 minutes. I know many people would be uncomfortable with that and would request a different routing. personally I don’t mind short connections and somewhat prefer them.

We all think differently and I like short layovers at ATL. How long of a layover do I need in ATL is different depending on the type of flight so see the table below.

I’ve made some very fast connections in Atlanta. Including a 15 minute connection that included a concourse change. Obviously I wouldn’t recommend that as I was moving very quickly and know the Atlanta Airport well.

Flight TypeDelta Minimum Connection TimeJames’ Minimum Connection Time*Comfortable Connection Time
Domestic To Domestic35 Minutes35 Minutes45 Minutes
Domestic To International40 Minutes60 Minutes60 Minutes
International To Domestic85 Minutes60 Minutes90 Minutes
International To International85 Minutes60 Minutes90 Minutes

Delta’s minimum connection times are a good guideline for when everything goes well. There are a few exceptions to what I am comfortable with. I’ll gladly take a 35 minute layover on a domestic trip, however on an international trip, I like a few extra minutes. Mostly because many of those flights are only once a day or I’m on the last flight of the day, missing those connections means cutting a day off a vacation. That’s no fun.

People who are not familiar with the ATL airport or like to take their time, I’d recommend a few extra minutes but for a domestic flight 45 minutes is plenty. More than enough time to get to your next gate, go to the bathroom, or even grab a snack.

On an International to Domestic/International flight you’ll need clear immigration and customs. This can be time consuming, I have global entry so that allows me faster connections and then a trip through PreCheck allows me to be back into the terminal quickly. I don’t mind a 60 minute connection on those trips, but the airline won’t allow it, but happens if there are delays.

ATL Airport Restaurants

The Atlanta Airport has tons of food options, everything from news stand sandwiches to nice sit down restaurants.

ATL airport Restaurants

I have a few favorite options. For fast food options I like the Panda Express in the E Concourse, the Jersey Mike’s in the C Concourse, Einstein Bagels in D Concourse or Five Guy’s in D Concourse.

For sit down meals I like the Buffalo Wild Wings in the Upstairs of D Concourse and the Bobbies Burger Palace In the B Concourse.

I don’t tend to eat in the restaurants in the airport. I’m often not in the airport for long layovers and if I am, I tend to go to a lounge.

ATL Airport Lounges

ATL airport delta skyclub

Atlanta airport is Delta land. Delta has 9 Skyclubs here spread across the 7 concourses. Some are better than others, however my favorite is the F Concourse club.

ATL airport delta skyclub

The F Concourse Skyclub has a skydeck, as far as I’m concerned, all other features pale in comparison with being able to sit outside and enjoy a beverage and snack.

There is also an AA club and UA club, those are both in the T terminal. There is also a 3rd party lounge here, The Club At ATL is in the F terminal. It’s often very crowded and really not worth visiting, it however is a Priority Pass lounge.

ATL Airport Final Thoughts

I don’t consider the Atlanta Airport to be particularly glamorous, but it’s extremely functional. Not to say it’s ugly, just that the planners have placed more value on function. I like the Atlanta Airport, it connects me with the world.

For its size, there’s no easier airport to navigate. It’s also not prone to many delays due to its geographic location. Each of the concourses also have a golf cart shuttle that can help people with mobility issues get around. The induvial airlines can also arrange a wheel chair transfer that can take you from gate to gate.

The ATL Plane Train is easy to use and will quickly move people between Concourses. It allows for the busiest airport in the world to have extremely safe and short connection times. The ideal layover time for most people on a domestic flight will be 45-60 minutes. For an International to Domestic flight the ideal connection time will be about 90 minutes.

Connecting in ATL is easy, fast, and pleasant. I’d recommend it to anyone.

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