Record-breaking Memorial Day travel expected at Atlanta airport on Friday

Memorial Day travel at the world's busiest airport in Atlanta is expected to shatter records this year.

Travelers leaving for the holiday weekend on Friday came prepared for long lines at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport but were pleasantly surprised to see everything running smoothly.

"We were worried because we had so many bags and luggage, but now that's taken care of, so we can relax now," said Kemelly Freitas.

Jess Speaker was traveling on Friday with a Scouting America troop from West Cobb County.

"You know, it could've gone either way. It's 4 in the morning, so there's that, but it is Friday of Memorial Day weekend," said Speaker.

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Travelers are seen ahead of the Fourth of July holiday weekend at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on June 30, 2023, in Atlanta. (Photo by ELIJAH NOUVELAGE/AFP via Getty Images)

Peak travel for Memorial Day weekend started on Wednesday and continues into the following week. TSA officials said agents screened 111,000 passengers on Thursday, breaking an all-time record at the airport. TSA projected that it will screen 106,000 passengers on Friday but said that number could exceed breaking more records.

The last travel volume record at the airport was the Monday after Atlanta hosted the Super Bowl in 2019.

"Considering it's Friday of Memorial Day weekend, I feel like it could be worse, but, you know, being that it's as early as it is if it had been lighter, it wouldn't have been a surprise either," said Speaker.

TSA said wait times on Thursday never exceeded 8 minutes, and agents are tasked with keeping the wait times no longer than 30 minutes.

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"Honestly, it's the biggest airport that there is, but if you follow the signs, you can't mess up," said Freitas.

On the ramp at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, operations are running smoothly on this busy holiday weekend with more than 2,300 flights scheduled to move through Atlanta alone on Friday. 

Below the wing, airline ground crews are working full throttle to get planes off on time. 

"Everything fits into its little puzzle piece, and we got to make sure that we, as an airport, are keeping that puzzle put together correctly and in the right order," said Josh Gilmartin, operations coordinator at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. 

On holiday weekends like this, all hands are on deck to be ready for anything.  

"The weather is always the most unpredictable aspect for us, just because that's the one aspect of the airport that we have absolutely no control over," Gilmartin said. 

During the holiday travel period, leaders at Hartsfield-Jackson expect 2.5 million people to travel to, from, and through Atlanta.

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 the airport's MARTA station was closed for renovation for the last few weeks, it has reopened just in time for the rush.