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Airport expecting busiest Thanksgiving travel season to date

The airport is expecting to break its busiest Thanksgiving travel-related day record. (Austin-Bergstrom International Airport/Facebook)

It's the great holiday wait, Charlie Brown!

If you're planning on traveling this holiday season, you might want to pack now because the next few days at the Austin Bergstrom-International Airport are going to be hectic—Sunday was already the second-busiest in the history of the airport.

ABIA's public information officer Bryce Dubee told Austonia that the busiest days of the year are typically reserved for Formula 1 and both weekends of ACL Festival. The Monday following this year's F1 race saw 35,298 passengers, the busiest day ever, but the airport said it's gearing up for several days of 30,000 or more passengers over the next week.

Sunday saw 32,175 flyers screened through TSA, making runner-up for busiest day.

Travel is seeing a healthy resurgence since the pandemic shut it down in 2020—bookings for Thanksgiving are up about 3.2% from 2019's pre-pandemic holiday nationwide, according to Dubee, who expects that pattern to reach Austin.

Ahead of the surge, ABIA is releasing tips to keep hangry holiday goers out of long lines and into their desired destinations. The Transportation Security Administration is advising that travelers arrive at least three hours before their flight, even with TSA PreCheck or Clear.

And with Austin travelers reporting bustling lines as early as 7 a.m.—TSA opens as early as 3:30 a.m. at the airport—it's easy to see why.

The Sunday near-record indicates full pandemic recovery for the airport: the previous busiest Thanksgiving-related travel day was the Sunday before the holiday in 2019, when 29,697 passengers trudged through ABIA security. And though Sunday was already tabbed to be one of the busiest days this week, Dubee said the airport predicts that Wednesday and the weekend after Thanksgiving will also be packed as travelers come and go from their holiday destination. Dubee said the week could easily become the busiest Thanksgiving on record.

With Formula One's numbers as a good "stress test" for the airports' crew, Dubee said he feels confident that most of the week should be smooth sailing. But with TSA reporting an "alarming trend" of travelers bringing guns and other illegal items in record numbers and the rise of hostile passengers, including a woman who "snatched cookies" from someone on-flight, the airport continues to remind passengers of what they should and shouldn't do ahead of the holiday weekend.

In addition to arriving three hours early, Dubee also recommended reserving parking through, checking in in advance online, and using mobile boarding passes to streamline the airport process.


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