Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is using a new overflow security checkpoint as Thanksgiving travelers filled queues early Wednesday morning.

With some wait times nearly half an hour long, Atlanta airport officials are advising travelers to get to the terminal at least two-and-a-half hours before their flights. Wednesday is one of the busiest travel days of the Thanksgiving period.

ExploreHoliday travel guide to Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Int’l Airport

“We’re full swing in the Thanksgiving rush,” said Robert Spinden, Transportation Security Administration federal security director in Atlanta.

The airport now has four security checkpoints in the domestic terminal: The main security checkpoint, a North checkpoint, a South checkpoint for PreCheck travelers and the overflow Lower North checkpoint.

As passengers filed through the main checkpoint, some passengers were redirected to the overflow checkpoint, which opened for the first time last Friday. Airport and TSA officials have spent weeks preparing for the holiday rush, as passenger traffic is expected to be close to or above the pre-pandemic levels of 2019, according to TSA.

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

“With the overflow checkpoint and with passengers preparing for their trips, it’s going smoothly,” Hartsfield-Jackson spokesman Andrew Gobeil said Wednesday morning.

There will be heavy traffic at Hartsfield-Jackson security checkpoints on Wednesday from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. , 1-3 p.m. and 6-8 p.m., according to Spinden.

TSA has been offering more overtime to security officers to come in early to open more lanes in the pre-dawn hours, he said.

“What we’ve seen is that If we can open up lanes before the rush hits, the big rush at 6 (a.m.), then you’re ahead of the crowd and you don’t get all that far behind,” Spinden said.

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

On Wednesday, a large volume of passengers arrived at checkpoints at 5 a.m., as travelers head to the terminal earlier before their flights.

“Our passengers heeded advice to come out early,” said Michael Smith, senior deputy general manager at Hartsfield-Jackson.

TSA launched its daily holiday staffing plan at 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Spinden said, but based on the early arrivals of passengers may deploy security teams even earlier on Sunday, which it expects to be the busiest day of the holiday period.

ExploreAmid long security lines, Hartsfield-Jackson opens overflow checkpoint

Gobeil said the airport plans to use the overflow checkpoint from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Wednesday, 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. Thursday and 5 a.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday. A total of 2.5 million passengers are expected to pass through Hartsfield-Jackson over the Thanksgiving travel period.

Mallory Tate of Acworth was flying out Wednesday to visit family in Louisiana, and arrived hours before her departure time to work around her three-month-old baby’s sleep schedule.

She noticed queueing areas set up in the domestic terminal for lines to stretch through the atrium. The crowds “look pretty normal,” said Tate, who has traveled frequently for work in the past. There was a heavy rush early in the morning, “but it’s the holidays, so that’s to be expected,” she said.

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines expects to handle nearly 6 million passengers Nov. 18-29, with nearly 500,000 customers a day.