History of ATL

April 16, 1925

Mayor Walter A. Sims signs a five-year lease on an abandoned auto racetrack and commits the City to developing it into an airfield. As part of the agreement, this 287 acres of land is renamed Candler Field after its former owner’s family, including Coca-Cola magnate Asa Candler. The infield of the old racetrack had been used as a landing site for many years prior to 1925.

September 15, 1926

Florida Airways delivers mail on the Tampa/Jacksonville/Atlanta route to become the first commercial flight into Candler Field.

October 11, 1927

Charles Lindbergh is given a hero’s welcome as he visits Atlanta in the Spirit of St. Louis.

May 1, 1928

Airmail provider Pitcairn Aviation (later known as Eastern Airlines) begins regularly scheduled air service.

April 13, 1929

The City pays $94,400 for the land and changes the name of the Airport to Atlanta Municipal Airport.

June 12 1930

Delta Air Service (later known as Delta Air Lines) begins a trial service from Birmingham, Ala., on June 12 and on June 18 made it an “official” permanent route.

December 10, 1930

Eastern Air Transport, formerly Pitcairn Aviation, inaugurates first continuous passenger service from Atlanta to New York.

July 4, 1934

Delta re-establishes Ft. Worth-Atlanta route securing its place in Atlanta’s aviation history as the Airport’s oldest continuous tenant.

March 1939

The Airport opens its first control tower.

October, 1940Atlanta was declared an air base by the U.S. Government. Candler Field would double in size during World War II.

1941Delta Air Services moved company headquarters from Monroe, Louisiana, to Atlanta.

1942In July, because of a dispute with the post office, the City reaffirmed the name as Atlanta Municipal Airport because officials could not find the original paperwork. Hartsfield later was quoted as saying that he clearly remembered the City officially changing the name in 1929.
A record 1,700 takeoffs and landings in a single day was set and the Airport was named the nation’s busiest in terms of flight operation.

May 9, 1948Airport officials temporarily move operations into a war-surplus hangar as plans were developed to build a larger terminal. More than 1 million people came through Atlanta’s Airport during that year.


Work begins on new terminal to help alleviate congestion. Atlanta was the busiest airport in the country with more than 2 million passengers passing through. Between noon and 2 p.m. each day, Atlanta became the busiest airport in the world.

May 3, 1961

Atlanta Municipal Airport is ushered into the “Jet Age” with the opening of the largest single terminal in the country. The new $21 million structure could accommodate 6 million travelers a year. Within its first year, 9.5 million people visited, stretching the new terminal past its capacity.


The Atlanta Region Metropolitan Planning Commission (ARMPC) does the first formal planning studies and proposes the mid-field terminal concept open in 1980.

February 1971

William B. Hartsfield dies on Feb. 22 and on Feb. 28, what would have been Hartsfield’s 81st birthday, the Airport name is changed to William B. Hartsfield Atlanta Airport.

July 1, 1971

The Airport’s name is again changed, this time to William B. Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport, when Eastern Airlines introduces flights to Mexico and Montego Bay, the Airport’s first international service.

January 1977

Construction begins on the world’s largest terminal complex. This $500 million project would be the largest construction project in the South.

June 1, 1978

Sabena Belgian World Airlines becomes Atlanta’s first foreign international carrier when it begins a four-time a week service to Brussels.

September 21, 1980

William B. Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport opens the world’s largest air passenger terminal complex, covering 2.5 million square feet. The terminal is designed to accommodate up to 55 million passengers a year.

December 1984

A 9,000-foot fourth parallel runway was completed. A separate expansion the following spring gave the Airport an 11,889-foot runway capable of handling the largest commercial airplane in use or in development.

June 18, 1988

MARTA’s Airport station opened, linking the Airport to Atlanta’s rapid transit system.

Fall 1992

The Atlanta Perishable and Equine Complex opens.

September 1994

The new 1.3 million square foot International Concourse E opens. It is the largest, single international facility in the nation. Blending state-of-the-art technology with innovative architectural design, distinctive art and pleasant amenities, Concourse E is designed to help move international passengers quickly and smoothly to their next destination.

May 1996

The $250 million Hartsfield Improvement Program (HIP “96) is completed. This ambitious renovation and restructuring effort was designed to make Hartsfield a more user-friendly Airport. One of the more dramatic improvements of this program is the addition of the beautiful, three-story, 250,000 square-foot Atrium.

June 1996

The Department of Aviation begins developing its new Master Plan — Hartsfield – 2000 and Beyond.

July 1996

The Centennial Olympic Summer Games come to Georgia.

February 1999

Hartsfield gains the title World’s Busiest Airport in passenger volume after accommodating 73.5 million travelers in 1998.

March 2000

Hartsfield is recognized as the World’s Busiest Airport in terms of both passenger traffic and landings and takeoffs after accommodating more than 78 million passengers and more than 900,000 landings and takeoffs for 1999.

April 2001

The City of Atlanta celebrates the groundbreaking for the new fifth runway at Hartsfield. This project is a major component of the $6 billion-plus, 10-year capital improvement program. Other projects include a new international terminal and Consolidated Rental Car facility (CONRAC). The fifth runway is the largest public works project in Georgia history.

October 2001

Following the attacks of 9/11, enhanced security measures were adopted at the nation’s airports. Members of the Georgia National Guard begin security patrols at Hartsfield to support existing security personnel and Atlanta police officers at Hartsfield.

October 2003

To honor late Atlanta Mayor Maynard H. Jackson, the Atlanta City Council legislated a name change of the Airport. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport recognizes the visionary leadership that both William B. Hartsfield and Jackson had for the Airport. Hartsfield-Jackson, the world’s busiest passenger airport for the fourth consecutive year, stands as a testament to two of the city’s greatest leaders.

July 2004

Construction begins on the $215 million TSA Baggage Security Screening Project, which creates specially constructed rooms below the Airport roadways for Explosive Detection Systems currently located in the ticketing lobbies. As part of the project, additional screening facilities were constructed at International Concourse E, Airport roadways were reconfigured and improved terminal curb fronts were installed.

December 2004

A record 83.6 million passengers passed through the Airport, and since 1998, Hartsfield-Jackson has retained its title as the world’s busiest passenger airport. Additionally, a record 6 million international passengers travel through Hartsfield-Jackson, marking a 103 percent growth since the city of Atlanta hosted the 1996 Olympic Summer Games

July 2005

Hartsfield-Jackson celebrates its 80th birthday. From its humble beginnings to its present world-class distinction and into its illustrious future, the Airport continues to be a vital link in the world’s air transportation system.

May 2006

The fifth runway open. It is hailed as “The Most Important Runway in America.”

January 2007

Hartsfield-Jackson receives several prestigious national honors. It was named Best Large U.S. Airport by American Express’ Executive Traveler magazine. It was named Most Efficient Airport in the World by Air Transport Research Society. General Manager Ben DeCosta was named Best Airport Director by Airport Revenue News magazine.

February 2008

Forbes magazine names Hartsfield-Jackson the No. 1 airport in the nation for WiFi connectivity.

March 2009

  • Hartsfield-Jackson Concessions program wins the Atlanta Business Chronicle Best in Real Estate: 2008 Deal of the Year award in the Retail category.
  • Hartsfield-Jackson receives Airport Revenue News’ 2009 Best Concessions Management Team award.

April 2009

  • Aviation General Manager Ben DeCosta named “Man of the Year” by Atlanta Tribune.
  • Hartsfield-Jackson’s cargo operation receives Air Cargo World’s Award of Excellence.

May 2009

  • Hartsfield-Jackson was recognized as Air Cargo Week’s “Airport of the Year.”
  • Airport appoints its first chief financial officer, Milton M. Castillo.

June 2009


The Air Transport Research Society recognizes Hartsfield-Jackson with its Award of Excellence for Efficiency.

July 2009

  • The Air Transport Research Society recognizes Hartsfield-Jackson with its Award of Excellence for Efficiency.
  • Hartsfield-Jackson sets a world record for monthly flight operations (88,408).

September 2009

  • The Air Transport Research Society recognizes Hartsfield-Jackson with its Award of Excellence for Efficiency.
  • Hartsfield-Jackson sets a world record for monthly flight operations (88,408).

October 2009

  • Alaska Airlines begins service at Hartsfield-Jackson.
  • Aviation General Manager Ben DeCosta is appointed to the Airports Council International World Governing Board.

November 2009

  • Hartsfield-Jackson launches a new recycling program, GreenSortATL.
  • The Airport’s new dog park opens.
  • Hartsfield-Jackson receives the Airport Safety Mark of Distinction award from the Federal Aviation Administration Southern Region, Airports Division.
  • The Airport’s Concessions unit wins the Airports Council International–North America’s Best Convenience Retail Program award in the large airport category and the 2009 Concessions Person of the Year (director of Concessions).

December 2009

  • Hartsfield-Jackson’s new rental car center and ATL SkyTrain open to the public.
  • Hartsfield-Jackson Chief Information Officer Lance Lyttle is named to the 50 Most Important African-Americans in Technology list by eAccess Corp., a San Francisco-based publisher.