Hartsfield-Jackson expects a record total of 111 million passengers for 2019

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Long lines snaked through the terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Friday. Friday is the busiest day for Memorial Day weekend travel. Security lines for the main checkpoint stretched through the domestic terminal atrium and began extending into baggage claim by 7:30 a.m. Waits were as long as 30-45 minutes at the South security checkpoint early Friday morning. An estimated 93,000 travelers are expected to pass through security checkpoints at the world’s busiest airport Friday.

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport expects to handle a record 111 million passengers for 2019.

Last year, a total of 107.4 million passengers passed through Hartsfield-Jackson, making it the world's busiest airport measured by passenger counts, Airports Council International confirmed Monday with its official traffic report for 2018.

“I think we’re going to hit 111 million this year,” said the airport’s general manager John Selden during a presentation to Atlanta City Council members last month. “We’re going to grow about 4 million” in 2019, he said.

Hartsfield-Jackson had the most passengers in 2018, but it wasn't the world's busiest airport when it comes to flight counts -- that title belongs to Chicago O'Hare. For cargo traffic the world's busiest airport is Memphis, where FedEx has its "super hub."

In the first half of this year, passenger counts at the Atlanta airport were up 3.29 percent compared with the same period of 2018.

Hartsfield-Jackson had its busiest day on record earlier this year on the Monday after the Super Bowl in Atlanta, when nearly 102,000 passengers were screened at ATL and security wait times were up to 2 hours long.

Selden said the airport has “capacity to grow.”

However, during some periods it can feel as if the world's busiest airport is bursting at the seams. Security lines during busy holiday periods can stretch through the terminal and into baggage claim with waits of 45 minutes or longer. Customs and Border Protection waits can also be lengthy.

Hartsfield-Jackson has plans to expand the South security checkpoint at the domestic terminal, which will open more capacity to handle the tens of thousands of passengers passing through each day.

“Airports across North America continue to experience record-setting growth, further demonstrating the dire need for airport infrastructure improvements,” said Airports Council International - North America CEO Kevin Burke in a written statement.

Fitch Ratings issued a report Monday saying volumes of passengers boarding planes at U.S. airports are at their highest in more than a decade. The total count of passengers boarding planes reached 1 billion in 2018, up nearly 5 percent from 2017, according to Fitch.

Traffic at small and medium-sized hubs has grown faster in recent years as ultra low-cost carriers Spirit, Frontier and Allegiant expand, though that growth “is more uncertain” than for legacy carriers, according to Fitch Ratings director Jeffrey Lack in a written statement.