Summer travel has exploded and so have the challenges of airport travel. From long security lines causing people to miss flights, to pilot and flight attendant shortages causing delays and cancellations, the airport is quickly becoming the most stressful part of a vacation.
Rick Coffey likes to get to the airport at least two hours before a domestic flight and three hours for an international flight. He said he enjoys getting to the airport earlier than everyone else on his flight so he can grab coffee and enjoy people-watching from the gate as others arrive.
“Why start your vacation or business trip already stressed?” he said.
Airlines are struggling to bring back staffing they had to let go in early 2020 when the pandemic caused the demand for flights to significantly decrease.
The tight staffing numbers are one of the reasons airlines have had to cancel and delay multiple flights and even stop service to certain airports due to demand in other locations, which means summer travel will continue to be unpredictable for a while.
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Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has been the busiest airport in the world since 1998 with 2,700 arrivals and departures daily, on average.
Jai Ferrell, chief commercial officer at Hartsfield-Jackson , said she normally would recommend arriving at the airport two hours before their flight departure time. But now that more people are traveling again, she recommends adding that extra hour just in case.
“Early is better because there’s the unknown of what could change the flight behavior, which is beyond the airport specifically,” Ferrell said. “If you have any cancellations, delays, or weather, you don’t want to be in a situation where you have a flight getting pushed back or rescheduled without being prepared on time.”
Most people tend to get to the airport two hours before their flight departure time and three with international flights.
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Brenda Donaldson says she has flown over 1 million miles and always tries to make her time at the airport as stress-free as possible. She gets to the airport two hours before her flight, wears slip-off shoes, no belt and carries a jacket that’s easy to take off.
“I never carry anything in my pockets and have my boarding passes on my phone,” she said. “Combined, I have plenty of time.”
But others prefer waiting closer to the flight departure time even with an increased number of travelers and longer lines at the airport.
Transportation Security Administration spokesperson Lisa Farbstein said 2.45 million air passengers were screened Friday, the highest daily total since February 2020. She told USA TODAY that passengers should arrive at the airport early due to the increased number of travelers.
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Barbara Moss and her husband are always having to negotiate a time to leave for the airport. She always prefers to get there earlier while her spouse prefers to leave closer to the flight time. But Moss said they always get there early anyway to avoid worries about traffic or crowds.
“I would much rather get there early and sit or walk around than feel the anxiety of not knowing what we might run into on the way to the airport,” she said.
She and her husband, Bob, had a trip planned for the summer but decided to cancel it due to uncertainties with COVID-19. She said, instead, they’re going to hop in the car and take a road trip to Pittsburgh.
“Then we can leave whenever we want and we don’t have to rush,” she said.
However, this Fourth of July weekend, an estimated 42 million people are expected to take a road trip.
. She said people traveling now are not as familiar with the airport.
A couple of things air passengers should do is download the mobile app for their air carrier to stay updated on flight and gate information, she added. Some major airports, like Atlanta, Los Angeles, or Newark, New Jersey have dashboards for security wait times posted so passengers can decide the best time to arrive at the airport.
“You have no idea if there’s another delay,” she said. “You don’t want to provide any more inconveniences if you can help it so pack your patience.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Security lines can delay you: How early should you get to the airport?