The Sheer Stupidity of Connecting From An International Flight in Atlanta

by Anthony Losanno

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We flew from Lima’s Jorge Chavez International Airport (LIM) to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) before connecting home to Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD). I forgot what a hassle connecting from an international flight is in Atlanta and am wondering if I might have found a future workaround.

Delta Planes

After going through US Customs and Border Protection, all passengers are brought to an area with two choices: those with trips terminating in Atlanta head right and connecting flights head left. There are signs for TSA PreCheck®, but it does not exist here. Instead you’re dumped into a melange of people unsure about what to do next. Flight crews cut into the lines. Wheelchairs push by and passengers are told to leave everything in their bags. This is fine in theory, but part of the benefit of having TSA PreCheck® is the ability to wait in a shorter line. It took us over 30 minutes to get through security and that’s with no one having to remove shoes, take out liquids, or remove electronics from their bags.


I’m wondering if the next time I have a connection if I should just go through as if my final destination was Atlanta and then head back in using TSA PreCheck® or Clear Plus. That has to be faster. I’m curious if this is allowed or would be frowned upon for any reason.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) is the only airport that I can think of with a setup like this and it’s awful. There should be dedicated lanes for crew, passengers needing extra assistance, those with airline priority statuses or booked in premium cabins, and those with TSA PreCheck®. The crew and those needing assistance should at the very least be segregated as they continued to cut in and we kept getting pushed further and further back.

Anthony’s Take: I think I might have found a workaround for future connections in Atlanta. The current security situation after customs and immigration is laughably bad. Does anyone have any tips? Would my idea work?

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Jim McDonough September 4, 2023 - 6:37 pm

I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. I’ve only connected from international at DFW and ORD. In each case you have a recheck option prior to exiting, but everyone is dumped out into the terminal and you go through security as if you lived in Dallas or Chicago. You should be able to do the same in Atlanta.

RG September 4, 2023 - 7:31 pm

This will work without checked bags, especially fast with GE. Pre-check maybe closed at intl terminal but will most like be quicker. There is also head of the line for “priority “ Pax at Intl security.

Anonymous September 4, 2023 - 8:47 pm

Been doing it for years! ;-j
Just don’t tell anyone.

Scott September 5, 2023 - 5:07 am

The same setup exists at IAD and IAH. At IAH I always exit and renter via terminal D, that at least has Precheck, but not clear. Unfortunately at IAD, if you have baggage to recheck, you are queued in a completing different section of the arrivals and have to go through security.

Bumsi September 5, 2023 - 7:08 am

Wow cutting edge content here 😒

Tim A September 5, 2023 - 7:25 am

I’ve been told to do just that in Miami. When I ask for Pre-check, the TSA agent tells me to go out and re-enter.

John September 5, 2023 - 10:16 am

The reason why this is problematic at ATL is that there are TWO concourses where flights requiring customs clearance arrive (E &F) – and each has its own baggage claims for customs. If you arrive on F, you can do as you say – claim the bags, go through customs and then recheck them, and them BEFORE going through, and go out to the terminal and re-enter security using precheck and the normal way as if you are originating in ATL. The (big) problem is with Concourse E if your flight arrives there. Because it has no DIRECT way out of the airport (without going through a TSA screened, secure area in any direction, you MUST go through TSA to exit the concourse into the transportation mall to get to anywhere else in the airport. This is what causes the hang=up for connection passengers having to go through TSA. IF the USA could just accept whatever screening you went through at your foreign origination airport as good enough, then this problem could be totally eliminated.

FrequentWanderer September 5, 2023 - 1:02 pm

My solution is not to fly through Atlanta. Avoids so many problems! But on an international itinerary, where the connection city is unlikely to have an effect on the fare, one should reward the hub with the best connection setup.

Also as a Chicago resident yourself, I have no understanding of why you’d ever fly Delta.

Jean P September 9, 2023 - 7:29 am

Totally agree with your assessment of the TSA check-in process at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International terminal. I have never seen such chaos with everyone having to cue in the same line regardless of holding a boarding pass with pre-check. What makes it worse is that a TSA agent then hands you a card that allows you to proceed to the pre-check counter. I do recall that there was a sign indicating times when pre-check passengers had access to a dedicated line, this was limited to certain times in the day. Unsure who needs to be involved in getting this resolved.


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