Nema Etheridge for GlobalAtlanta
Newly posted signs in Spanish is Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport’s latest effort to welcome non-English speakers to Atlanta, airport spokeswoman Sterling Payne told GlobalAtlanta.
With more than 6.7 million international travelers in 2005, Hartsfield-Jackson rolled out its first Spanish language signs in July to better help Spanish speakers navigate through the airport.
Because some 40 percent of more than 47,418 international flights that arrived in 2005 came from Spanish speaking countries, Spanish was the first language chosen for the system. But if the program is successful, other foreign languages could also appear, Ms. Payne said.
“We’re really in the test phase to see the reaction from travelers,” she said, adding that the airport is distributing evaluation forms to get feedback from its passengers.
Spanish directional signs were up in the concourses, transportation mall, main terminal and baggage claim area six months after the program’s inception, according to Jon Yee, airport signage and graphics manager. He also noted that Delta Air Lines Inc. assisted Hartsfield-Jackson in its translations.
While the new signs will certainly help non-English speaking arrivals move from concourses to baggage claim with greater ease, Ms. Payne noted that the airport’s customer service department was well-equipped to assist foreign travelers.
The department has more than 50 bilingual employees, with at least five of them in the airport between the hours of 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. every day. They are also connected by radios in case their translation services are immediately needed in another location.
More than 30 languages are spoken in the department, some of which include little known dialects, Ms. Payne said, recalling the December arrival of Iraqi baby Noor and her family to Atlanta for an emergency surgery.
“Her family spoke a very unique dialect of Arabic, and it turns out we had two people on staff who spoke in the same dialect,” she said.
Until more languages are added to the signage system, volunteer interpreters will continue to direct foreign passengers, as well as assist them with any other problems, Ms. Payne said.
The signage system will be under evaluation until the end of the year.
For more information, contact Ms. Payne at (404) 209-2945, ext. 206, or visit www.atlanta-airport.com.