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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
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    1,988

    Default Customs/Immigration @ Atlanta

    Ok.... so with the big Delta/NWA merger essentially complete, our itinerary now has us flying back into the States through ATL. While I've been in and out of Hartsfield plenty of times, we've never entered the country there.

    Our itinerary offers plenty of time (1-1/2 hours), but I'm curious about anyone's observations of how busy it can be there.

    Comments?
    Chris

    "In an abundance of water, the fool is thirsty..." - Bob Marley - "Rat Race"


  2. #2

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    Hey Chris,

    We live in the ATL, and have a significant amount of experience flying from there both domestic and international.

    Since immigration and customs for returning to the states is done in ATL, your flight in will land and park at the E concourse. You will go downs stairs, pass need to collect your checked luggage, then pass through customs and immigrations. This is for ALL travelers, connecting or not. It can be a little crazy, but we have never had a significant wait.

    Following customs and immigrations, you are required to do a couple of things.

    If ATL is your final destination, there is a carousel for those bags. Place bags there, and pick them up at the main luggage claim.

    If you are connecting: There is a second set of carousels for those bags. You re-check your bags there, and they move on to your connecting flight. (We have friends that have connected through ATL on the way back from MBJ with us, and all was fine).

    For ALL passengers, you will have to go through a security screening after placing your luggage on the carousels. This is because you have had access to your checked luggage. Please note, when leaving MBJ, you are permitted to carry on your liquor purchased from the airport. However, you MUST put any carry-on liquor into your checked luggage before being permitted through this security screening as they treat everything as being from an unknown source because you had access to your checked bags.

    Just make sure you have space in your bags, and you will be fine.

    Enjoy your trip.
    E. Lee Cunningham
    Social Technologist, GE
    Atlanta, GA

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
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    259

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    When we flew back through ATL in December (at ~5pm on Saturday), it was slow going through immigration. However, this was mainly due to no signs being posted as to which desks were for US citizens, and which for non-US citizens. Due to this, everyone congregated at the same end of the hallway and joined the line there. Once all the US citizens realized they were in the wrong line, and walked to the far end of the hall to the correct line, the process was faster. The signs were no better for customs; we seemed to walk around in circles trying to determine where we had to go next. The lines to pass through security to catch our connecting flight were very slow. We had just under 2 hours between our flights, and made it without a problem, but I was looking at my watch alot.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
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    206

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    We were fine and we were late getting in. The only problem is they ended up switching our connecting flight's gate with not a ton of notice. So we were sitting where we thought we should be and then had to run back to the tram and another part of that massive airport.
    Don't forget though if you buy booze at the duty free, when you get to Atlanta, you have to re-check your bags. We didn't see them re-weigh ours which was good. But it still sucked having to stuff 5 bottles of rum cream back in to the luggage and pray it didn't break! We are making sure to take the direct flight home next time to avoid just that

  5. #5

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    We were late leaving MoBay (Feb 27)due to a paperwork glitch. We, too, had 1 1/2 hours between flights, but ended up missing our flight from ATL to PIT. Clearing customs & immigration in Atlanta was about the worst I've experienced except maybe for San Juan. It took more than 1 1/2 hours to get through immigration, customs and security, so even if we'd been on time we would have still missed our flight. It was very disorganized and no one seemed to know which lines to get in or what to do. Completely chaotic. We are going to Grand Cayman in June and I purposely avoided Atlanta, choosing to fly through Charlotte instead. If I ever come through immigration in Atlanta again, I will allow much longer than 1 1/2 hours between flights.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
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    1,988

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    Thanks for the response, Lee... but I'm a little confused on the sequence...

    We're connecting at ATL... do we need to pick up our bags BEFORE passing through Immigration? That's quite different from the other entry ports we've been through. Tampa, Memphis, Chicago... Immigration first, then bags and Customs before rechecking. If I understand your explanation, its bags first, then Immigration, Customs (are these together at ATL?), then recheck on the connecting carousel.

    Oh... and we ALWAYS enjoy our trip!

    Thanks again!
    Chris

    "In an abundance of water, the fool is thirsty..." - Bob Marley - "Rat Race"


  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Posts
    804

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris View Post
    Ok....
    Our itinerary offers plenty of time (1-1/2 hours), but I'm curious about anyone's observations of how busy it can be there.

    Comments?
    .....Allow PLENTY of time between flights. 1.5 hours may be cutting it close.

  8. #8

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    Chris,
    In ATL, it's the same as other airports: You got through Immigration 1st, then go get your luggage, then go through Customs, then re-check your luggage. Then, you'll go through TSA security (shoes off, etc...). Then you get on the shuttle from Terminal E to take you to whatever terminal you're flying home from.

    When we just fly home through ATL last Monday (from Anguilla/SXM), there was someone there telling you what Immigration line to get in. And, there were signs clearly indicating Resident vs. Visitor.

    Luckily for us the non-USA line was a lot longer; and we were in the front of the plane, which always helps.

    And, I know you said you'd been through ATL before, be sure to listen/look for gate changes. I've never heard so many gate change announcements as I have in the Atlanta airport !!

    Jackie

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Posts
    789

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris View Post
    Our itinerary offers plenty of time (1-1/2 hours), but I'm curious about anyone's observations of how busy it can be there.
    Busy depends on when you land and and when others land. I think we've been through immigration in ~5 minutes tops (when in 1st and no other planes landed the same time), and maybe 30 minutes the longest (plenty of other planes before us). Then the aforementioned bag claim, customs, bag re-check, security re-screen cycle. Well, there was that trip with the "special visit" to the secondary immigration area for some still-unexplained reason that added 45 minutes, but (hopefully) that won't happen to you so you don't experience all the hysterical crying people missing their flights in front of (apparently) unconcerned sloth-like-in-their-speed agents and the guy physically escorted to a plane to take him back to Mexico.

    On a travel-horror-story related note, we learned 2 weeks ago that ATL immigration/customs closes at some time (midnight maybe?) and you can be routed through MIA immigration/customs at 2:30AM. Ever spend 10 hours at MBJ?

    Anyways... better luck to you and I think you're experienced enough travelers to know the terminal layout at Hartsfield (T-A-B-C-D-E) and to check your departure gates constantly.

    Have a great trip.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
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    804

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by rudi View Post
    Busy depends on when you land and and when others land. I think we've been through immigration in ~5 minutes tops (when in 1st and no other planes landed the same time), and maybe 30 minutes the longest (plenty of other planes before us).

    Anyways... better luck to you and I think you're experienced enough travelers to know the terminal layout at Hartsfield (T-A-B-C-D-E) and to check your departure gates constantly.

    Have a great trip.

    ....Coming back from CN this past Nov., we had a 1.5 hour layover in Atlanta to go through customs. Our plane was on it's way to Memphis before we got through!! Allowing 5 hours this time.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
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    28

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    We had about 1 1/2 hours between flights when we landed in Charlotte on 3/26/10. Ended up missing our connection due to the line at immigration. When we finally made it up to the desk wit hour luggage, the lady asked what time our flight was. I replied, "10 minutes ago".

    People were attempting to use their cell phones while in line at immigration, probably to rebook flights they knew they were going to miss or to call family, and they went through the line telling everyone to turn off their cells. There is a sign regarding no cell phone use but it wasn't anywhere near where we were in line.

    They had 3 lines open for US citizens and 5 lines for non citizens.

  12. #12

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    Here is my previous post regarding ATL and customs/immigration:

    We left MBJ recently on a Sunday, March 7th to be exact. Our departure time was 3:00pm. We left CN at 10:15am, with no traffic congestion and arrived at the airport by 11:30. No problem.....until we got in the long line at the ticket counter, long line thru customs and security. Even though we boarded our plane timely ~ 2:30pm, we never actually left the runway for quite awhile. We landed in Atlanta later than expected and also had 20+ planes ahead of us trying to get to gates to unload their passengers. Therefore, we were late getting off the plane and again experienced a long line thru customs. We missed our connecting flight to Pittsburgh, through no-fault of ours I must say. We had to be re-ticketed in Atlanta and the ticket agents screen indicated that it was a "Jamaican government delay", so their position was that it was no fault of DELTA'S. We almost had to spend the night in Atlanta at our cost! We were very fortunate to get the last two seats on the last flight of the day to Pgh. Arrived in Pgh. at 12:30am. Yes, it was a long day but what kept us going were the wonderful memories of the place we just left - CN!!! We were not discouraged because of the flight delays and will return in the near future BUT we have learned a valuable lesson. One must allow at least a few hours between connecting flights, especially during the snowy season in PA.

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