Lines for security screening at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport stretched through the domestic terminal atrium and down hallways starting early Wednesday morning on one of the busiest days of the Thanksgiving holiday travel season.

Wait times at the main checkpoint exceeded half an hour during some periods. Airport officials urged travelers to get to the airport at least two hours before domestic flights, and to allow extra time for any special services like wheelchair assistance or travel with pets.

Mild weather in Atlanta and other cities around the country meant relatively few weather-related delays. Hartsfield-Jackson had only a handful of flight cancellations and a low rate of flight delays, according to data on Wednesday.

Wednesday was one of the busiest days for air travel, while the Sunday after Thanksgiving is also a peak day for the holiday period.

Thanksgiving Day itself is typically one of the slowest air travel days of the holiday season, though AAA forecasts road congestion will be heavy from noon to 3 p.m. Thursday.

Those traveling can check security wait times on the airport’s website. Wait times can fluctuate significantly throughout the day. After long lines filled the terminal early Wednesday morning, crowds eased midmorning before picking up again later in the day.

The Transportation Security Administration had been racing to comply with a federal employee vaccine mandate. It said this week that about 93% of its employees were in compliance and that the mandate would not affect holiday travel.

Credit: Kelly Yamanouchi

Credit: Kelly Yamanouchi

With a bounce-back in travel, AAA expects this year’s Thanksgiving traveler volumes in Georgia, including those going by car and by air, to be 3% shy of 2019 levels. Airline passenger counts are expected to be within 13% of 2019.

“We anticipate that travel may be very close to pre-pandemic levels this holiday, and we are staffed and prepared for the holiday travelers,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske in a written statement.

More than 2 million travelers have passed through airport security checkpoints nationwide on each of the last six days as holiday travel ramped up, according to Transportation Security Administration data. More than 2.4 million passengers traveled last Friday, setting a record for the period since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Credit: Kelly Yamanouchi

Credit: Kelly Yamanouchi

Hartsfield-Jackson itself expects to handle 2.22 million passengers during the Thanksgiving travel period running from last Saturday to next Monday. The airport has had normal operations over the last several days after a gun discharge at the main security checkpoint on Saturday.

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