NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY/NEXSTAR) — A week out from Christmas, and the travel rush is certainly on.
On Friday, more than 7,300 people left on flights departing Norfolk International Airport, a stat similar to that of the day before Thanksgiving according to airport leadership. Thousands more arrived.
The Transportation Security Administration believes the busiest travel days of the holiday season are still to come.
Specifically, the TSA anticipates Wednesday, Dec. 22, and Thursday, Dec. 23, to be the busiest pre-holiday dates for national and local travel, while Sunday, Jan. 2, and Monday, Jan. 3, are anticipated to be the busiest days for post-holiday travel. Even if you don’t fly on those days, a representative for the agency said passengers should expect “sustained high travel volumes” through the end of the year.
“The underlying message for travelers is to arrive early and prepared,” TSA spokesperson Lorie Dankers tells Nexstar.
Kristin Kendl learned that lesson Friday morning at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. She flew to Norfolk to visit friends in Hampton.
“I got there in Seattle at about 4 a.m. and I didn’t see my terminal ’till about seven so … three hours in security the line was out the door,” Kendl said.
In Norfolk, the heavy traveler traffic a week before the major holiday could be pinned on a number of different factors.
AAA projects more then 109 million Americans will travel for the holidays, a 34% increase from 2020. On Friday, the Army’s 10 Day Christmas Exodus began and a majority of Hampton Roads school districts started their winter breaks.
“We’re confident its going to be a busy season we are going to do everything we can to make it a safe one,” said Steve Sterling, the deputy executive director for the Norfolk Airport Authority.
To avoid unnecessary delays, he and the TSA is urging passengers to be mindful of the current COVID-19 health and safety protocol, including a requirement for all travelers to wear masks at TSA checkpoints.
The airport is also implementing changes at the arrivals terminal to keep things moving.
“If you are picking up an arriving guest at the baggage curbside during peak travel times you will not be allowed to park and wait for the person. That lane is going to be reserved for just loading passengers, active loading,” Sterling said.
Among the TSA’s other holiday tips, travelers are advised to do the following: Pack smart by refraining from packing prohibited items or overstuffing luggage; know how to travel with holiday food and drink; packing unwrapped gifts in gift bags to prevent the risk of TSA officers having to unwrap presents during screening; and download the MyTSA app for security information and live support.
The TSA’s latest travel projections come shortly after the TSA recorded its highest passenger-throughput volume since the beginning of the pandemic, recording a total of 2,451,300 individuals screened on Sunday, Nov. 28, just after Thanksgiving weekend.