Memorial Day 2024: Atlanta airport prepares for busy travel rush

Leaders at the world's busiest airport are preparing for things to get a lot busier when the Memorial Day travel rush kicks into gear next week.

The unofficial start to summer and the summer travel season is expected to bring millions of travelers through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

The airport is estimating that 2.5 million passengers will head to and from Atlanta from Wednesday, May 22 to May 29. The busiest day will be Friday, May 24th with 351,000 passengers.

"We planned ahead of time to get here because of the traffic and construction and everything here at Hartsfield is busy," said Charlene Watkins.

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines expects nearly 3 million customers - a 5% increase from 2023. United Airlines is planning to fly more than half a million people a day.

"We are now going to surpass pre-pandemic numbers," said Garrett Townsend, a AAA Spokesman.

AAA says some of the top destinations this year include Orlando, Florida, Las Vegas, Fort Lauderdale, southern California, Miami, Denver, and Boston.

One thing that's thankfully not too much higher than 2023 is flight prices. AAA says they've only seen a slight bump from 2023.

Airport officials are encouraging travelers to check parking options before heading for their flights.

Like every year, they also encourage you to get to the airport early - 2 hours before a domestic flight and 3 hours for international travel.

While MARTA's Airport Station remains closed for renovations, the transit authority expects the station to be reopened days before the big travel rush starts.

Busiest season at Atlanta airport

The Memorial Day travel period is typically the start of the busy summer travel season, but things have changed.

Robert Spinden is in charge of the TSA operation in Georgia. He says his team had their second busiest day ever last week, and were just 50 passengers short of the record.

"I think we have a great chance of beating that all-time record," he said. "It's possible next Friday, as passenger projections continue to increase as you get closer to the day itself."

Overall, 2023 was a record year for the TSA at ATL, but 2024 is on track to beat it. The agency says so far they have screened nearly 12% more people this year than they did over the same period last year.

"We have just seen a steady increase in passenger traffic as airlines just continue to pack those planes," Spinden said.

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With the big crowds expected, airport leaders say expect long lines if you are traveling and get here extra early. Some plan to take no chances this summer.

"Typically I get here two, maybe three, hours early, but probably if my flight leaves at 6, I'll be here probably six hours in advance," said Isis Thomas.

Besides getting to the airport early, make sure you know what is in your bag.

Atlanta police say they are cracking down on passengers who try to bring a gun through the TSA checkpoint.

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The airport police commander says if you bring a gun that has a round in the chamber, and it’s unholstered, you will go to jail.