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Hartsfield test run ‘exceeded expectations’

International terminal to make Clayton ‘new front door’ of airport

Photo by Jim Massara 
The atrium at the new international terminal at Hartsfield.

Photo by Jim Massara The atrium at the new international terminal at Hartsfield.

More than 1,600 volunteers played tourist Wednesday at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to help officials there ensure the new international terminal is ready to open on May 16.

The simulation of a typical day at Maynard H. Jackson Jr. International Terminal “exceeded our expectations,” said deputy general manager Balram Bheodari.

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Photo by Jim Massara Aundrea Hunnicutt (left) and Debra Gleaton, of Delta Air Lines, check in a suitcase at the new international terminal.

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Photo by Jim Massara Volunteer Jamille Montgomery, of College Park, checks her phone while waiting to “board” a simulated flight at the new international terminal.

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Photo by Jim Massara Delta Air Lines employees Caralene Charles (center), of Morrow, and Jameisha Harris (right), of McDonough, work out computer problems with an unidentified technician at the new international terminal.

Airport officials expect the terminal to serve as many as 15 million travelers annually by 2015. And because the new terminal is the first at Hartsfield to be accessed from I-75, it will make Clayton County “the new front door for the world’s busiest airport,” according to Grant Wainscott, director of the county’s office of economic development.

Wainscott said the terminal has already fueled $200 million worth of development in the area, with another $150 million planned and $50 million worth of road work funded and ready to go.

It also promises to transform the Mountain View area, which is mostly light industrial, into more of a “passenger and public experience” complete with hotels and retail outlets, he added.

On Wednesday inside the terminal, it looked as if that passenger and public experience had already started, with volunteers checking in, passing through security checkpoints, waiting for simulated departures, and eventually retrieving their luggage.

Areas devoted to passengers and customer service appeared to ready to go, while workers applied final touches to stores and restaurants.

“I think it’s gorgeous, I think it’s beautiful,” said Jamille Montgomery of College Park, one of the volunteer passengers. A former Delta Air Lines employee who heard about the simulation and thought it would be “fun” to participate, Montgomery used her smartphone in a bright and spacious waiting area while expecting to “board” a Delta flight.

Madeline Fuzell Taylor of Jonesboro agreed. “I’ve been through a lot of international terminals, and this is really nice,” she said while completing a survey Wednesday morning of her experience at the terminal.

After picking up their luggage and filling out the survey, volunteers were rewarded with a free box lunch supplied by an Atlanta restaurant chain.

Most volunteers gave “extremely positive feedback,” Bheodari said, with only a few complaints regarding terminal signage and the occasional restroom problem.

Testing of the new terminal will continue — day and night, seven days a week, according to Bheodari — until it opens at noon on May 16. In addition, Hartsfield will host a ribbon-cutting and reception on Thursday with Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed expected as guests.