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At Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the domestic and international terminals are connected by the Plane Train within the airport's secured area. The few times that I've had international flights out of Atlanta, I've noticed that the wait in the security line tends to be much shorter than the wait in the domestic terminal, which can often be quite long.

So what I've thought about doing is going through security in the international terminal and then taking the Plane Train to my gate. I suppose this may not actually save me any time due to the longer distance from security to my gate, but I'm sure any traveler can understand why I'd rather spend my time riding the tram than waiting in the security line.

Is this something that I can do? Will I be allowed through security at the international terminal without a boarding pass for an international flight? If so, will I need to have the same kind of documentation I'd need for international travel (e.g. a passport) or would the standard U.S.-issued driver's license suffice like it would at the domestic terminal?

Edit for 2019

Due to ongoing construction, there is currently significantly increased traffic at both the north and south domestic terminals. The work is intended to continue for some time. This makes checking in at the international terminal an even more desirable option if allowed.

  • I've never done this at Atlanta, but I do it in San Francisco semi-often and it's no problem at security (TSA doesn't care what you present as long as it's an accepted form of ID). But it could well be a problem at check-in if you need to visit the counter to get a boarding pass or especially to check bags. And if they won't do it, you're on the opposite side of the airport from where you need to be (there is a shuttle bus outside, but I'm not sure how often it runs). It should work though if you have a carry-on and checked in online, but I've never tried it in Atlanta. – Zach Lipton Oct 29 '18 at 20:07
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    I have done this, one time when there was construction at the domestic terminal making the lines even longer than usual. The main problem is with checking bags - if you have checked luggage, you need to be on an airline that has check-in counters at both the domestic and international terminals. I believe Delta is the only such airline. – Michael Lugo Jun 10 at 15:50
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+100

Yes. The TSA does not care what terminal you use, and the documentation requirements do not change in any way. You are entering the same sterile area no matter which checkpoint you go through. The international terminal is the site of a pilot program using CT scanners instead of traditional X-ray machines, so who knows if that will speed things up or slow them down. The upside is that electronics no longer have to be removed from bags.

In some cases, if you need services at the checkin desk, that may be an issue as some airlines either do not have a desk in the international building or do not provide services to domestic passengers there. Just to be safe, I would be sure to get my boarding pass printed in advance or on my phone. If you have to check a bag, I would definitely call ahead and make sure.

The airport would rather you not do this, as it messes up predictive staffing, but that's their problem not yours. No rule against it.

By the way, the reverse of applies if you have an international flight going out of ATL and want to take MARTA or park in the domestic garages and avoid the long bus between terminals. The only thing you can't easily due is get back from an arriving international flight to the domestic terminal if you have to check bags because you won't be able to re-enter the secure area to take the train, so you'll have to take the bus.

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During my visit in 2013, my impression was that there was only 1 security area.

From incoming flights from Europe, you first go though immigration and then pick up your bags and go through customs.

Between customs and security you are supposed to give up your bags again, which I missed all together. A security assistant took the bag and delt with it.

After security ([International] Arrival Level) you entered the Departure Level. You could either get on the subway or go to a Mall (Mezzanine Level).

My impression was that there were peaple who had entered the Departure Level from a different (I assume security) entrance and were passing their time before getting on the subway to the domestic (and international) departures (E to A and T).

The map implies an entrance and Tickets check-in before security on the Departure Level, so it would seem this level is intended for domestic use.

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    I don't see how this addresses the question. – Daniel Sep 29 at 1:37
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    @Daniel The question is if the International Terminal can be used to check in for domestic flights. From my observations, togeather with Airport map, the answer seems to be yes. – Mark Johnson Sep 29 at 4:01
  • @MarkJohnson What you are describing is the experience for incoming international flights. After you clear customs/immigration, you are clear to enter the country, but, if you want to connect to another flight, you have to reclear security. You could, instead, exit the airport to the lobby at that time. What OP was asking is whether or not he, a domestic departure, can go through the international lobby, through security into the intl departures hall and then move airside into domestic departures. He wouldn't be going through the checkpoint you describe. – aidanh010 Oct 14 at 16:04
  • @aidanh010 yes, I know. I was sure that there were peaple coming in from near by, but since I didn't actually see it I didn't want to make that claim. From the map, it looks if I walked past the control point without noticing it. Why the giving of the personal experience is being downvoted is, however, beond me. – Mark Johnson Oct 14 at 16:32
  • @MarkJohnson I did not downvote it, as it seemed like a valid good faith answer to me, and +1 for the useful map. – aidanh010 Oct 14 at 17:20

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