Growing up in Florida and attending school in North Carolina, I've never been too far away from a Chick-Fil-A. Almost every flight I take involves a connection through the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport (aka ATL). As the busiest airport in the country, ATL has stepped up to ensure its countless patrons have something to do during their layovers. A genius (and completely necessary) example of this strategy is the fact that the airport has two Chick-Fil-As. 

The History

beer, coffee, pizza, tea, ale, cake, wine
Sara Cleary

Chick-Fil-A operated an ATL location in Concourse A from 1996 to 2012. When it closed that location to move to Concourse C, it renovated and then reopened its Concourse A location in 2013. I remember being in the airport for a layover during that transition period, when there was one in Concourse C, but the “coming soon” signs were still plastered in the Concourse A location.

I was giddy at the thought of the possibilities. Though one Chick-Fil-A was essential, I knew that having two of them (just two terminals apart) could change the world. Ever since, I’ve made it my goal to go to both Chick-Fil-As during my layovers, and to never fly through the airport on Sunday (when Chick-Fil-A is closed). I’m not kidding, I’ve gone to both Chick-Fil-A’s three times in a row now, and I can’t remember the last flight I had through Atlanta on a Sunday.

One time before that though, I only had time to go to one Chick-Fil-A. I was at Concourse B, so I had to make a decision. I was frustrated and nervous, because even with all my ATL Chick-Fil-A eating experience, I had no objective measures which I could use to understand which location was better. I decided then and there that I would do what's necessary to change that.

The Methodology

chocolate, cinnamon
Shaq Junaid

I’ve only taken metrics for the past two times I’ve been at the airport, but I took some down some qualitative data. Measures I used included the friendliness of the staff, how the line operated, and whether or not they respond to “Thank you” with Chick-Fil-A’s trademarked, “My pleasure!” I also took quantitative data on how long I waited from line to the register, as well as how long I waited after leaving the register to get my food.

Concourse C

beer, wine
Shaq Junaid

Near: Gates C20 & C21, 48 gates total

Airlines: Delta and Southwest

Line: There is one line per register, but a friendly staff member stands at the back of the line to help out those. Both times, there were three people in front of me in line.  My average wait time to the register for my two visits was 2:36.

Seating: In both my visits, the pickup area to the right got crowded quickly, and there are only two tables to sit at to dine-in, which are almost always occupied.

Service: Nothing stood out here. Only 1 out of my 3 "Thank you's" were returned by "My pleasure," which was pretty disappointing. 

Food: The order was accurate on all my visits, and while there was nothing particularly special about the crispiness of the fries or the juiciness of the chicken, I had no complaints either. 

Additional comments: During my most recent visit, they ran out of napkins and my drink didn’t have enough ice, so it wasn’t cold. In addition, they charged me for all the components of my meal separately rather than giving me the meal price, so I was overcharged a bit, and didn’t realize until I looked at my receipt.

Concourse A

coffee, wine, beer
Shaq Junaid
Near: Escalator to Plane Train

Airlines: Delta

Line: The line snakes up right before the counter, where you wait until an available register opens up, so there’s no pressure to choose a line. That said, the average wait time to the front of the line was 3:49 minutes, 46.7% longer than the wait at Concourse C. I even went at the same time to both locations. The pickup area also gets more congested because people order and can’t figure out where to stand; everyone just bunches up in front of the register.

Service: I noticed friendlier staff at this location. In both times I kept track, everyone who served me replied, “My pleasure!” after I thanked. I can’t stress this enough; it is a huge game changer. The average wait time to get my food was 4:25 minutes. They actually charged me less than Concourse C on my one of my trips because they accounted for the bundled meal price rather than ringing everything up separately.

Food: On my most recent visit there, I sat down at one of the plentiful tables in the dining area, and I peer in my bag in anticipation. I can tell from the unusually hot bag that this meal is particularly fresh. A tear rolls down my face and onto the paper bag as I get a feeling that I can only compare to Santa Claus himself handing you the gift you’ve always wanted since you were three years old. They accidentally gave me an extra order of fries! I take one out to take a bite and another tear escapes my eye as I experience how perfectly golden and crispy they turned out.

At this point I'm crying while eating Chick-Fil-A in the middle of an airport food court, but nothing can ruin this moment. Not even the fact that I lost track of time and had to sprint to my gate in time (even though my layover was an hour and a half). No, not even that.

Additional comments: Concourse A has a food court in it, so if you’re not feeling Chick-Fil-A (which is never) there’s also a Great Wraps, a Qdoba, and few other places so you can give yourself the illusion that you’re actually making a decision. There’s also a piano bar, and if there’s a guy playing, it sets a relaxing ambience for you to enjoy your deep fried chicken.

The Verdict

sweet, bread
Kimberly Fu

Concourse A, by a long shot. Perhaps it's not worth hopping on the Plane Train and changing concourses, especially if you have a short layover out of Concourse C and could risk missing your flight (which I almost did, once). But, if you have the time or find yourself at Concourse B, definitely go down one letter earlier in the alphabet to satisfy your Chick-Fil-A craving.

I know this was a huge issue that everyone has been thinking about, so I’ll be the first to say: you’re welcome! Travel safely my friends.