Thanksgiving airport crowds will break records this year, TSA says

The Thanksgiving airport rush will shatter records this year, according to a new forecast.

More than 26.8 million air passengers will travel through airports nationwide from Nov. 22 to Dec. 2, marking a 4% increase over last year and a new high, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said Wednesday. 

“We expect record-breaking travel volume this 2019 holiday season, following our busiest summer ever,” said TSA Acting Deputy Administrator Patricia Cogswell in a press release. 

To keep traffic moving during the onslaught, the TSA plans to offer overtime to screeners to keep checkpoints adequately staffed. But the agency still encourages passengers to arrive at the airport at least two hours before domestic flights and three hours before international flights.

In this June 9, 2019, file photo, travelers make their way through a TSA security checkpoint in Pittsburgh International's Landside terminal in Imperial, Pa. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

“To plan for the season, partnerships with industry and stakeholders are critical to keep travelers moving safely and securely to holiday destinations,” Cogswell said. “We want to ensure travelers are as best prepared as they can be.”

How to travel smoothly

Proactive travelers can consult the FAA’s website and MyTSA app for real-time data on flight delays and estimated wait times at security checkpoint lines.  

If you want to avoid the crowds, plan your travel accordingly.

Don’t fly to your Thanksgiving destination on Nov. 27, the day before the holiday. The TSA expects 2.7 million passengers to travel then. On the way home, avoid Sunday, Dec. 1, the most heavily trafficked day. More than 2.8 million travelers are expected to be in the skies.

Those looking to skirt the masses should instead fly on Thanksgiving, which falls on Nov. 28.

Otherwise, the best way to deal with the congestion is to prepare. 

Travelers go through O'Hare International Airport before the Thanksgiving Day holiday in Chicago last year. (Photo: REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski)

Check in to your flight the night before and pack only a carry-on, if possible. Sail through security lines by wearing slip-on shoes, keeping your laptop and other devices accessible, properly storing liquids and moving all items from your pockets to your carry-on before getting in line.

It may be too late for this Thanksgiving, but you can get a jump on next year by registering with Global Entry and TSA PreCheck to get you to your gate faster.

Good for five-year memberships, you benefit from expedited security lines, walking through security with your shoes on, and not being required to remove laptops or liquids from your luggage. 

The Global Entry membership fee is $100 and TSA PreCheck is $85. Some travel credit cards also will reimburse you for this expense.

Stephanie is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @SJAsymkos.

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