We all know that Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is the world's busiest airport -- but what happens when officials say there will be a 100,000 travelers?

Airport post-Super Bowl: Max wait time 2 hours long with record number of passengers screened

On a record day when nearly 102,000 passengers were screened at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, some waited in line for two hours Monday, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

Airport officials had advised that passengers flying out the day after the Super Bowl get in line at TSA security 2 hours before departure, as part of a 5-4-3-2-1 rule. But when the lines were longest, that may not have been enough to get to the gate in time to board a flight.

In addition to clearing security, passengers would also need time to get to their concourse and gate, which could involve a ride on the Plane Train.

Boarding typically starts half an hour or more before departure. The airport had advised getting into the TSA line two hours before departure and getting to the gate an hour before departure -- meaning security on Monday should have taken less than an hour to get through instead of two hours.

Fortunately, many passengers allowed more time than the airport advised and got into line for security more than two hours before their flights.

Multiple security lines at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport snaked through baggage claim then the atrium in both domestic terminals on Monday February 4th, 2019. Official expected over 100,00 travelers to pass through the airport today. (Photo by Phil Skinner)
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The total of 101,999 passengers flooding TSA checkpoints on Mass Exodus Monday surpassed the previous record of 93,082 set on the Friday before Memorial Day 2018, according to TSA. 

“It was obviously very, very busy,” said Mary Leftridge Byrd, TSA federal security director at Hartsfield-Jackson.

While on Monday airport officials said wait times were as much as an hour and a half long, TSA said Tuesday that the maximum wait time on Monday was 120 minutes.

Multiple security lines at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport ran across the atrium then snaked through baggage claim in both domestic terminals on Monday February 4th, 2019. Official expected over 100,00 travelers to pass through the airport today. (Photo by Phil Skinner)
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The new record for passengers screened in a day is nearly 9.6 percent higher than the old record, and it showed: Lines on Monday morning stretched through the domestic terminal atrium, around baggage claim carousels and flooded into airline check-in areas. The terminal was flooded with passengers at around 8 a.m. and lines extended around the terminal through the morning.

Hartsfield-Jackson assistant general manager of planning Tom Nissalke said the airport had “established a plan to essentially use every available square foot and fill it with queuing.”

But if passengers were not in line during the peak period Monday morning, they might have had shorter wait times. TSA said the majority of passengers waited 30 minutes or less.

Multiple security lines at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport ran across the atrium then snaked through baggage claim in both domestic terminals on Monday February 4th, 2019. Official expected over 100,00 travelers to pass through the airport today. (Photo by Phil Skinner)
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Multiple security lines at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport ran across the atrium then snaked through baggage claim in both domestic terminals on Monday February 4th, 2019. Official expected over 100,00 travelers to pass through the airport today. (Photo by Phil Skinner)
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
2/4/19 - Atlanta - Passengers spend the night at the airport after the Super Bowl. Delta Airlines handed out blankets and pillows to passengers spending the night in the airport instead of getting a hotel room. EMILY HANEY / emily.haney@ajc.com
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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About the Author

Kelly Yamanouchi
Kelly Yamanouchi
Business reporter Kelly Yamanouchi covers airlines and the airport.

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