The indoor smoking ban at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport has officially gone into effect. Delta should capitalize on the restrictive new law with an innovative use of its SkyClub patio in Terminal F.
I read through the language of the new law. Its primary target is indoor smoking, with specific exemptions made for outdoor seating areas in bars and restaurants. Although the language could be construed to disallow smoking anywhere on the premises of Atlanta Airport, I don’ think that is a necessary interpretation of the law.
Let’s take a look at the text of the new ordinance.
No person shall smoke or vape in Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport or in buildings and facilities owned or operated by the city department of aviation.
Seems clear, but not necessarily. Does in mean inside or on the premises? I’d argue it refers to inside, since ATL will have designated outdoor smoking areas curbside and the language includes “in buildings” (further implying indoors).
The new ordinance bans smoking in public places. Further down in §2, 86-31, public place is defined as an “enclosed area”:
Public place means an enclosed area to which the public is invited or in which the public is permitted.
In §2, 86-32, the ban is limited to enclosed public places:
Smoking and vaping is prohibited in public places. Except as otherwise specifically authorized in this Article, smoking shall be prohibited in all enclosed public places in the City of Atlanta.
Originally, the bill also banned smoking in “outdoor seating or serving areas” but that provision was explicitly redacted in a last-minute amendment to the bill prior to passage. Instead, that clause now reads:
Smoking and vaping is prohibited in bars and restaurants, except as otherwise specifically authorized in this Article.
Atlanta restaurants and bars have interpreted this as an exemption for all outdoor areas. Interestingly, the bill does not include any limits for how far outdoor smoking must be segregated from windows, doors, and other points of foot traffic.
In discussing exemptions, the ordinance reiterates in §5, 106-9(b) that smoking is not allowed “in or upon” any city-run facility:
No person shall smoke or vape in or upon buildings and facilities owned or operated by the City of Atlanta.
Could “upon” mean outdoor areas of Atlanta Airport? Again, this seems unlikely, since designated smoking areas outdoor now exist before security.
Thus, I read the bill to prohibit all indoor smoking but to leave permissible all outdoor smoking.
An Opportunity For Delta
All the smoking rooms in Atlanta Airport are now closed since they were indoor. But what if Delta took its SkyClub in Terminal F and turned the beautiful outdoor patio into a smoking area?
The roof is retractable and the area would have to be designated as non-smoking when the roof was closed, but for most of the year it would make a convenient place for people to smoke.
And think of the business opportunities. Delta stopped selling single visit passes in 2018, but what if it made an exception for this club? Sell a pass for $69 and you’d have smokers lining up to avoid having to exit the secure side of the airport and then endure another security check.
With snacks and drinks included, I know there would be a lot of takers and the whole experience could be used to win more business. Delta could easily only sell passes to passengers traveling on Delta, which might push smokers to choose Delta over the competition (then again, connecting passengers in ATL are likely already traveling on Delta anyway).
Delta would not even have to send staff out to the patio (and subject them to second hand smoke) during the day. Ashtrays could cleaned out nightly after the club closed.
I enjoy Delta SkyClubs and think Delta could win even more customers by adapting one of its several SkyClubs in Atlanta to cater to smokers. Doing so on the outdoor terrace would likely not run afoul of the ordinance and would show that Delta cares about its smoking passengers too.
As I’ve said before, I am not a smoker, hate the smell of smoke, and would urge any smoker to quit smoking immediately. But smoking remains prevalent in much of the world and any first-word airport should have a smoking area to accommodate those who have not wised up to quit smoking.
What do you think? Should Delta cater to smokers in Atlanta?