It has been many years since I flew out of Atlanta’s airport to an international destination. In fact, it was back when Delta flew to Tel Aviv from Atlanta that I last flew from there. Even then, I had only been connecting so would not have had reason to enter the “new” international terminal (if it had been there). However, last week I did use the international terminal at ATL as my origination – and I really did not like how they managed the security lines!
The Security Process at the Atlanta International Terminal
I will start this mini “rant” with this – I have TSA PreCheck and have elite status with various airlines. Because of these two things, it is not often that I have to wait in the general security line at airports. In fact, the security lines is one of the reasons I always want to keep my elite status! 🙂
Last week, I was flying out of Atlanta with Turkish Airlines (on their new 787 Dreamliner!). After checking in my bags, I mentioned to the agent that I was glad the my TSA PreCheck number had been applied (since I have had problems with it on Turkish in the past).
She said it didn’t matter – because TSA closes the PreCheck line at 5:30PM! My flight (and many other international flights) was leaving after 10PM so that meant that no one boarding those flights would have access to PreCheck.
Well, I told the agent, at least I am flying business class so I can use the priority lane! Disappointment number 2 – there is no priority lane in this terminal at security for elite members or business/first class passengers!
While I have had issues with Turkish Airlines and TSA PreCheck in the past (my issue is not with Turkish but with TSA as they either don’t have PreCheck at those terminals in several airports or they close it before Turkish flights leave), I actually do love PreCheck for one big reason (aside from the quicker lines). It means I do not have to unpack my carryon which often has many pieces of electronics in it (camera(s), laptop, tablet, cables, chargers, earbuds, etc). However, with regular lines, you do need to take those things out.
But, at least with priority lines, I would still not have to wait in a line that has 500 people in it! Yet, TSA had decided to not offer a priority line at the international terminal in Atlanta.
It Gets Worse!
Fortunately, the line didn’t take nearly as long as I had thought it would (partially helped by quickly jumping in lanes as they would open up) – in spite of their being a single TSA official checking IDs.
The real kicker came when putting our bags on the belt and the announcement came out – “all electronics larger than a cell phone have to go in a bin, do not stack anything on any electronics. Also, remove all food from your bag – snacks, gum, etc.”
Wait, WHAT?! Yeah, I had forgotten that some TSA agents do have this happen now but I have not gone through such a line in almost 2 years so had forgotten. Now, I am scrambling through my bag trying to find every little thing that I had put in their for my family, etc.
Sure enough, I had forgotten some little thing and my bag got pulled aside for another security check. Finally, they okayed it all and I moved on to the lounge (another slight peeve – Turkish Airlines uses a The Club lounge in this terminal, which was, of course, packed full since every other airline uses it as well and Priority Pass members!).
Why This Bothered Me
I am certainly not some kind of DYKWIA (do-you-know-who-i-am) traveler, even if this post sounds like it! 🙂 My problem is that I had no way of knowing advance that this terminal operates like this. If I had been traveling like I normally do, I would have arrived very close to boarding time for my flight. I often travel like that since I know I either have TSA PreCheck or the priority lane and it goes pretty fast.
Atlanta not even offering anything besides a standard security line is a big disappointment for an international terminal. TSA’s decision to close down their Precheck line hours before many flights are departing is another disappointment.
And to make it a trifecta of disappointment, it was disappointing that there were so many TSA agents around that were not actually working the lines that could have been working other lines – and they weren’t.
The trusted traveler program is a membership program – as in I
pay (actually, one of my many credit card companies pay) for this different security lane. I know it is possible for a line to close at times but I get frustrated when TSA decides to close those lines either just “because” or for some other reason that really doesn’t make sense. In the end, it just showed me that I really need to plan for more time if I ever fly out of Atlanta’s international terminal again – that is, if.
Featured image By Arina P Habich, Courtesy of Shutterstock