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murphc45 Mar 5th, 2013 03:55 AM

Air France/Delta connections in Atlanta
I'm going to be flying from Dublin Ireland to Phoenix AZ via Paris and Atlanta at the end of this month. I booked the cheapest flight option but now I'm getting a bit worried that I don't have enough time to make my connection at Atlanta as I'll have to go through immigration there as a non-US citizen. Has anyone got any experience of taking a connecting flight through Atlanta? I will be landing in Atlanta at 18.25 on Friday the 29th of March and my connecting flight is at 20.04. Any help would be appreciated as I'm starting to get a bit worried!!

RoamsAround Mar 5th, 2013 08:10 AM

It often amazes me in that many posters (especially first timers like murphc45) always come to ask for advice AFTER they've booked their flights - as if to somehow ask for assurances they did the right thing. Buying the cheapest airfare is not always the wisest move if it involves connecting flights.

In this case, OP is asking if he/she should be worried about what amounts to be a 90 minute connecting time is adequate for a non-US citizen to deplane , clear immigration & customs, reeler the TSA checkpoint and get to his/her next gate in time for the flight. Well, he/she has every right to worry - he/she is cutting it extremely close. It's doable if the inbound flight is on-time and if there are short lines at Immigration. The point being no one can give any assurances that two or three jumbo jets won't have arrived with hundreds of passengers (many non-US citizens) around the same time as OP's flight. As a non-US citizen OP will be on the longer, slower moving line for immigration but how long it will take is anyone's guess. Depending on the number of people it could take anywhere from from 10 to 45 minutes just to clear Immigration - figure a minimum of 30 minutes. If he/she has checked luggage add another 5 to 30 minutes to claim luggage, clear Customs and recheck the bags for the connecting flight. Figure another 20 to 30 minutes to get through the TSA checkpoint. That leaves only about 20 to 30 minutes to deplane, walk to the Immigration area, walk from Customs to the TSA checkpoint and from TSA to the connecting gate.

SIMPLY PUT that's not much of a cushion. OP would be better off changing to a later connecting flight. Remember, Murphy's Law (no pun intended) of Airports always comes into play in these situations - it clearly states that one or more of the following will occur: The shorter your connecting time the greater the chances are your inbound flight will be delayed, the lines at Immigration will be long, you'll be singled out for a random inspection by Customs, the TSA lines will be moving at a snail's pace and your connecting flight will be departing for the gate that is at the far end of the terminal.

travelgourmet Mar 5th, 2013 02:42 PM

That isn't a terribly busy time for international arrivals, so I don't think it is too bad.

At the end of the day, the airlines are working from the assumption that you will make the connection, just as you are. Atlanta is the busiest airport in the world, handling hundreds of thousands of connections every day, most without incident. I strongly suspect that Delta knows more about your likelihood of making your connection than most of us do here and that they set their minimum connect times based upon their knowledge.

As for advice, just keep moving and keep your eyes open. Follow the signs and keep an eye out for your connecting gate information. If you do that, I suspect you will make it. Atlanta is a pretty logical airport and is designed to move massive numbers of people.

Worst case: there is another flight to PHX an hour later. If you don't make the connection, get to a customer service desk ASAP.

murphc45 Mar 6th, 2013 02:30 AM

Thank you both for the helpful advice. It's great to know there is another flight an hour later, very reassuring! In response to RoamsAround, in this case the cheapest air fare was the ONLY option. I am a graduate student and as such make very little money. However my boyfriend works in Phoenix and has been there for quite a while. The options available were take the cheapest flight possible for the dates that suit and hope for the best or not see each other at all for six months. I simply was wondering if anyone had any experience of navigating through Atlanta airport around that time of day and could offer some advice. I was under the impression that forums such as this existed to help people and not to belittle them or make them feel stupid for asking a question. Again, thank you both for the advice and safe travels.

RoamsAround Mar 6th, 2013 04:34 AM

I wasn't trying to belittle you, only pointing out that many people ask questions like this "after" they purchase the ticket rather than before. In that case, the remedy, if necessary, often results in paying a change fee which often negates any savings one gets when buying the least expensive tickets.

I then went on to tell you that a 90 minute connection time is doable if everything falls into place but also pointed out some of the potential risks (all based on experiences I've encountered in over 30 years of international travel). Sorry if you didn't like that response but I can tell you 90 minutes goes by quite quickly when things start going awry.

Now, there's no way anyone here can predict what will happen the day you fly - we can only give you anecdotal information based on our experiences - and for me 90 minutes is the minimum time I'd allot for a connection when arriving in the US from an international flight (and I'm a US citizen who uses Global Entry (so I can skip long lines at Immigration & Customs). You, on the other hand, are a foreign national and that means more of a delay at Immigration and Customs - just how long a delay is anyone's guess.

No matter how you cut it 90 minutes is a tight connection - most likely it's doable but you should have a back-up plan in mind in the event something goes wrong.

Good luck in your travels.

travelgourmet Mar 6th, 2013 06:45 AM

<i>Sorry if you didn't like that response but I can tell you 90 minutes goes by quite quickly when things start going awry. </i>

I'm sorry, but I don't understand this notion of planning every trip around bad scenarios. Call me an optimist, but I'd rather plan around normal course. If missing 90 minute connections were normal course, then the airline would change the minimum connection time due to the costs involved.

Atlanta is a well-designed airport with relatively minimal delays, particularly for an airport of that size. They also have a brand-spanking new international terminal which, when combined with the existing facilities, pretty much doubles inbound processing capacity. Most importantly, it now allows for direct exit from the airport for those arriving at ATL while they previously had to be re-screened along with connecting passengers - this probably reduces demand for security lines by at least 25% even before the capacity doubling.

I would have taken a 1:30 connection at ATL before the new international terminal and would definitely do it today. That goes double for this flight, which is pretty much the only international arrival at that time. And it goes triple when there is another connecting flight leaving an hour later.

dutyfree Mar 6th, 2013 04:46 PM

There are two international terminals in Atlanta-either E or F depending on the airline and destination. Customs in F (which is the new terminal and is smaller than E) and has lines for US citizens and other countries. You will wait in line to go through immigration,pick up your bag in the international baggage claim and then walk through the customs inspector. Sometimes you maybe stopped for a secondary inspection with agriculture (which has been quite prevalent lately with every flight!).

After you go through customs, you will see an area to recheck your bag to your final destination along with ticket counters for assistance-you literally throw your bag back on a conveyer belt. You then will go through another TSA screening before going out to the departure screens area/ vital info and escalator area to get to the trams for your next flight.

The Atlanta airport is laid out from terminal F to A then to terminal T and then the terminal where the ticket counters and baggage claim area/outside exit for all other flights are located. If you look at a picture of it in the back of the magazine in your airline seat pocket, you will see it kinda looks like each terminal is a straight line laying horizontally connected by an underground tram which runs between the terminals every 3-5 minutes.It can take upwards of 15 minutes to get from terminal F to terminal A.Its fast,efficient and if you run into trouble there are agent assist booths throughout the terminals.

rkkwan Mar 6th, 2013 08:43 PM

Change every word "terminal" in dutyfree's post above to "concourse". That would be helpful for the OP and others using ATL.

dutyfree Mar 7th, 2013 04:11 PM

Sorry-just got off working a London flight yesterday and was very tired/jetlagged! :)

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