Record holiday crowds expected at Hartsfield-Jackson

4:54 p.m Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017 Business
About 331,000 passengers are expected to pass through the world’s busiest airport this Friday, with many local school districts allowing students the week off for Thanksgiving. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM.

Record crowds are expected over the busy Thanksgiving travel period at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, with the rush kicking off this Friday.

About 331,000 passengers are expected to pass through the world’s busiest airport this Friday, with many local school districts allowing students the week off for Thanksgiving.

Airport officials recommend passengers arrive in the terminal at least two hours before their flight. Extra time may be needed to navigate through traffic, find parking, take off-airport parking shuttles, check oversized bags or get any other special assistance.

The busiest day of the Thanksgiving travel period is expected to be the Sunday after Thanksgiving, when the Atlanta airport expects to handle 335,000 passengers.

While most of those are connecting passengers, a record 97,000 people are expected to pass through security checkpoints that day. That’s up nearly 20 percent year-over-year, surpassing the previous record of 92,421 passengers set earlier this year on the Friday before the Fourth of July.

During the busiest periods, “We’ll have all hands on deck and all lanes open,” said Mary Leftridge Byrd, federal security director at Hartsfield-Jackson. Security lanes will open earlier to handle crowds. TSA is phasing in a requirement to take electronic tablets like iPads and other large devices out of carry-on bags and put them in a separate bin during screening. The airport will also step up security, including more canine inspections in public areas.

Throughout the 10-day Thanksgiving travel period, the airport expects to handle more than 3 million passengers. That’s up from 2.8 million to 2.9 million last year.

Hartsfield-Jackson will curtail most construction causing airport road closures during overnight periods — but some lanes will remain closed to use as staging areas for the construction of a massive canopy over the Terminal North curbside area.

An art installation at Atlanta’s airport simulates a walk through a forest.
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