Delta Passengers Plug in as Atlanta Int'l Begins Terminal Modernization Plan

Nicole Nelson
Published in: 

With a $6 billion renovation and expansion program getting underway at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Int'l Airport (ATL), passengers are already enjoying tangible improvements. Early efforts focused on one of the most sought-after customer amenities: a comfortable place to sit down and plug in cellphones and laptops. 

The overall project, dubbed ATL Next, is expected to span 20 years. Significant capital projects will include the addition of a new concourse (the airport's eighth) by 2023, and a sixth runway by 2034. Currently, the focus is on renovating ATL's existing terminals with a $393 million modernization program that is scheduled to last until summer 2019. 

Project: Terminal Modernization 
Location: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Int'l Airport
Operating Entity: City of Atlanta Department of Aviation
Timeline: 2016 to 2019
Estimated Cost: $393 million ($136.8 Airside; $256.2 Landside)
Delta Concourse Seating/Power Module Provider: Zoeftig
Seating Installation: Green Heart Enterprises
Seating Units: 8,000
Landside Terminal Contractor: Hartsfield-Jackson + Partners (HOK; Stanley, Love-Stanley Architects; Chasm Architecture) 
Airside Concourse Contractor: Hartsfield-Jackson Design Collaborative (HKS; Fitzgerald Collaborative Group; Corgan Associates)
Delta Construction Team: Dunn Aviation Group; AvAirPros

The $136.8 million airside component of the modernization program recently took a visible step forward with the installation of more than 8,000 new double-arm seats in Delta Air Lines' holdrooms. Between the armrests of the new Zoeftig inFINITE seats are nearly 2,000 power modules with 120V electrical outlets and 2.3-amp USB fast-charge sockets for mobile phones, laptops, entertainment systems and other electronics.

As the project progresses, a variety of other airside improvements will be made within concourses T, A, B and C. Landside improvements will include renovations to ticketing, baggage claim and security areas.

Overall, the objective is to bring the feel and finish of the International Terminal-the airport's newest facility-into the domestic terminal, explains ATL Design Manager Gary Summerlin. "We are not trying to imitate it, but we are trying to complement it," he explains. 

To facilitate upcoming projects, the airport invites resident airlines to design and planning/development meetings. As such, they'll all have the opportunity to incorporate proprietary elements in their respective holdrooms.

Delta advanced to the beginning of the renovation sequence because it had suggested a seating project that stitched together nicely with improvements the airline was already planning, explains Summerlin. "From there, it sort of meshed into one project," he recalls, noting that blended financial streams are funding the cooperative effort.

Building on the recently installed modular seating, elements currently out for bid include floor-to-ceiling windows, raised ceilings with perforated metal finishes, sustainable LED lighting and electronic gate signs. 

The airport worked in concert with Delta to make decisions about new carpet, seating, paint, branding and millwork to upgrade the airline's holdroom areas; and it plans to follow suit with other carriers to address their respective spaces, Summerlin explains.  

"We will do this at each of the concourses, including the mid-point, where you find most of the concessions and the access to the train," he comments. In addition to proprietary changes, universal enhancements will include new ceiling panels with a decorative pattern and new full-height, full-length windows that will essentially quadruple ATL's current amount. 

Upgrades are also slated for the transportation malls, which have otherwise remained the same for nearly 30 years. Plans are set to refresh connection stations with new carpet, an actual ceiling instead of a faux ceiling, and LED lighting. The ceiling plane at the mid-point of each concourse will be pitched upward, just as it is in the International Terminal. 

"Each concourse will be unique," Summerlin remarks. "Those (who) travel more frequently will notice the difference between T, A and B, instead of everything just looking the same. We are not theming anything; we are trying to make each concourse have its own identity."

Divide & Coordinate
While ATL's Department of Aviation is managing the landside portion of the modernization project, its airlines, and often their consortium, are leading airside efforts.   

"We are running the airside project due to the amount of coordination required with and for our operation," says Kenneth C. Dodson, Delta's regional director of corporate real estate. "This will modernize 85 of our gates; so Delta is running this portion, which touches our 85 gates, as well as the center points."

The effort got underway after Delta approached the Department of Aviation in early 2014 with ideas and requests to modernize specific areas and functions. "This led to many other good ideas, which led to the full program today," Dodson chronicles. The Department of Aviation hired design teams, and Delta has been engaged in landside and airside design efforts since they began.   "It has been successful collaboration," he reflects. 

Landside terminal work is being led by Hartsfield-Jackson and Partners, a joint venture of HOK; Stanley, Love-Stanley Architects; and Chasm Architecture. Airside concourse projects have Hartsfield-Jackson Design Collaborative at the helm, which is a consortium of HKS, Fitzgerald Collaborative Group and Corgan Associates.

Delta's construction team is currently comprised of Dunn Aviation Group and AvAirPros. An inspections company will be hired later. 

"Everyone has input and everybody follows along and has review opportunity to comment on the pros and the cons," Summerlin reports. "We find we need to rely on each other often to figure out certain infrastructure needs because the airport has certain infrastructure (elements) that are separate and unique from those of the air carriers. That all has to be coordinated."

With thousands of new seats and power/charging outlets in place for departing Delta passengers, ATL has an important foothold for the long climb ahead during its $393 million modernization program. Recent improvements also dovetail with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed's ongoing vision for ATL as "a 21st century airport for the 21st century city."


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