My mad dash through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

Until last week, I wouldn’t believe it if you told me one day I’d find myself running through an airport like a crazy woman with just 40 minutes left before my flight was scheduled to depart. Okay, let me be honest. Sometimes I run a little late but oh my goodness, I’d never ever been THAT late.

A snapshot of the Atlanta skyline
A snapshot of the dramatic Atlanta skyline

Please note, I didn’t say 40 minutes before the flight closed or 40 minutes before boarding. I said – and meant – 40 minutes before take-off! While you’re working out the logistics in your head, do me a favor, will you? Please try to figure out how you’d manage to accomplish that feat in Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International – the world’s busiest airport.

Stumped? I’d be too, if it didn’t miraculously work out for me. I was in Atlanta for business and my luncheon and final meeting ran longer than anticipated. So, by the time my colleague and I got off the highway and onto the airport exit, our watches said “oh, no” while our frantic minds were saying, “you better press the gas and go”.

Standing outside one of the major nerve centers of World News, the CNN Center
Standing outside the venue of my last meeting and one of the major nerve centers of world news – the CNN Center

Sounds incredible, right? Let me reenact it for you..

3:20 p.m.             Pull up to the car rental return area, hand over the keys and as there’s simply no time to wait, you ask for the receipt to be sent via email.  Grab your luggage from the trunk and simultaneously ask the attendant to point you in the direction of the terminal building.

3:25 p.m.             Climb, not stand patiently, on the escalators to the SkyTrain that will take you to the main processing area. Respectfully ask the persons ahead of you to move to the right in order to give you space to ascend –  quickly!

3:27 p.m.             Ladies, forget about business attire and its accompanying proprieties because subconsciously you know this dash is not going to happen with heels on. So while the train is still moving, open your carry-on and switch the fancy shoes for flip-fops. Make sure you do it with some ‘I know what I am doing’ aplomb and don’t miss a beat when the well-dressed guy standing next to you jovially asks if he can change his shoes too. Just incline your head and smile sweetly while you point to his two-toned wingtips and remind him he’s not the one wearing heels.  You, on the other hand, need to go low as you’re getting ready for a race against the clock that would make Jamaican Olympian sprint queen Shelly-Ann Fraser proud.

Work shoes were not made for running through busy airports
Note to self: work shoes were not made for running through busy airports

3:33 p.m.             Haul your bag and lost pride down the next set of escalators in close pursuit of your colleague who you told to go ahead because he was familiar with the layout.  In an airport that serves 225 domestic and international destinations combined, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize it will be easier to follow his profile than try to read a gazillion signs. But just before you round the bend, pause to lock eyes with the guy who is still checking you out and tell him to wish you luck. He does so with a nod and a smile and PRONTO – that adds a little more pep in your, let’s be quite frank about this, less than graceful step!

3: 35 p.m.            Thank your lucky stars for the wisdom of online check-in as it gets you to where you need to be in about two minutes flat. But then you see the queue ahead of you and stop abruptly. You look down at your watch and look back at the line quizzically. In between wondering how to get into a fast track lane you’re mentally calculating exactly how many of the average 250,000 passengers a day that pass through this airport are standing between you and your gate right now. 

Lengthy queues at Hartsfield-Jackson International (Image source: Atlanta Journal Constitution)
Lengthy queues at Hartsfield-Jackson International (Image source: Atlanta Journal Constitution)

3: 37 p.m.            A glance at your watch underscores that the time for shyness and political correctness is long gone, so you rely on your Caribbean go-getter instincts and ask the attendant in the Delta Priority line to let you through.  She explains she is not supposed to do that and she also feels the need to let you know your chances of making your flight are slim to none because even after this checkpoint, you have another train to catch. You politely tell her you are aware of that but you’d appreciate it if she could still try.

3:41 p.m.             The attendant moves off to speak with some other colleagues while the clock keeps ticking. She eventually saunters back and motions for you join her line which is significantly shorter but still has quite a few people in it. Then, the other agent who greets you at the top tells you he can’t put you ahead of the persons at the front of the line. There’s no room for shame in your game at that point so without skipping a beat, you make eye contact with middle-aged gentleman and explain your dilemma to him and anyone within ear shot who will listen. He acquiesces and thankfully, the people ahead of him allow you to move ahead of them too.

Atlanta SkyTrain Image source: Wikipedia)
Atlanta SkyTrain Image source: Wikipedia)

3:45 p.m.             Go into full throttle sprint mode to catch the other train that will get you to the departure gate. Try not to erupt in nervous giggles when you glance behind you and see your colleague “bussing it” in full jacket and tie, with his shoe laces still undone because he didn’t have time to red-do them after the security check.

3: 51 p.m.            Approach the gate, greet the agent and swipe your mobile bar code as directed. With very little breath left, you simply nod in agreement when she says you’ll have to check your bag at the gateway.

3:52 p.m.             Leave your bag, as directed.

3:54 p.m.             Enter the plane and go directly to the restroom to assess the full level of your dishevelment.

3:55 p.m.             Find your seat and sit down right as they announce the door is closing. Expect your chest to be heaving, your heart to be racing and your body to be lightly covered in sweat. Finally, let out that breath you’ve been holding, then lean back in your chair, secure your seatbelt and close your eyes.

You did it!

Thanking the Lord for my trusted flip-flops while the two guys next two must have been wondering, what's up with this woman?
Thanking the Lord for my trusted flip-flops while the two guys next to me must have been rolling their eyes and wondering, what’s her story?”



2 Replies to “My mad dash through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport”

  1. This airport was insane to get through when I had plenty of time to get to my flight. You are a travel super hero, my friend! I don’t judge you for a second for ditching those heels. Thank goodness the people in the line moved aside. There are still caring individuals in this world!

    1. You are so right about that airport and also about caring individuals still being around. I was a little taken aback but I am so happy they were nice because I got to sleep in my own bed that night.

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