Hartsfield-Jackson packed with Fourth of July travelers

Record crowds expected through the security checkpoints on Friday.
Travelers are seen in the domestic terminal of Hartsfield-Jackson airport in Atlanta on Friday, June 30, 2023. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Travelers are seen in the domestic terminal of Hartsfield-Jackson airport in Atlanta on Friday, June 30, 2023. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Thousands of travelers began filing into Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport early Friday morning for Fourth of July trips, on what could be a record day for passenger counts at security checkpoints.

Wait times reached more than half an hour long during some periods, while lines during slower periods in the TSA PreCheck line were much shorter.

The Transportation Security Administration has been preparing for as many as 104,000 passengers to pass through Atlanta airport security checkpoints on Friday, which would surpass the crowds seen at Hartsfield-Jackson on the Monday after the 2019 Super Bowl in Atlanta.

Nationally, TSA expects to screen a record 2.82 million people on Friday, about about 17.7 million over the week-long Independence Day travel period.

In line for security before 6 a.m. at Hartsfield-Jackson as the queue stretched down the hall alongside baggage claim, traveler Kenneth Stillman said the lines were long, “but they seem to be moving pretty quickly.”

Airport officials are advising travelers to get to the airport at least two hours early, but some travelers waiting in long lines said they wished they had arrived three hours early.

Ron Matthews, a business traveler returning home to New Mexico from Atlanta on Friday, got to the airport more than three hours before his flight.

“You’ve been in the battle long enough, and you know what’s coming,” he said.

Seeing the crowds at the airport, Matthews said: “They’ve been cooped up too long.” But, he added, “Atlanta is pretty efficient. We’ll get through it.”

Robert Spinden, TSA’s federal security director in Atlanta, said the biggest crowds come in the early morning, with another rush at noon and at 3 p.m. Crowds and long lines are expected to continue periodically throughout the day and into the evening.

Outside of the terminal, parking deck construction has limited the number of spaces available at the terminal and is driving congestion on airport roads. Long waits for shuttles and other services at the airport have also frustrated travelers.

Hartsfield-Jackson spokesman Andrew Gobeil said travelers should be prepared for the airport to be busy. “Have patience,” he said. “We could have a record-setting day.”

TSA has four of the 18 lanes at Hartsfield-Jackson’s main security checkpoint closed for construction, but has an overflow lower-level North security checkpoint opened last year for use during peak periods, including part of the day Friday. In addition to the existing main-level North security checkpoint, an expanded South security checkpoint opened in 2020.

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