Thursday, February 2, 2023

The end of Thanksgiving weekend delivers one of Philadelphia Airport’s busiest travel days in years

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How does one prepare for a flight on the Sunday that Philadelphia International Airport projected to be one of the busiest travel days in recent years?

If you’re George Grant, 37, of Warrington, you show up four hours early prepared for a wait — only to find no line at the security checkpoint.

“I don’t know whether to be glad there’s no line,” he said, “or annoyed that I misjudged and now have to sit in the airport for a few extra hours.”

Not all travelers were so lucky.

Airport officials estimated some 85,000 people traveled through Philadelphia International on Sunday; the culmination of a holiday travel rush that analysts estimated would rank as one of the busiest since the start of the pandemic.

From Wednesday to Sunday evening, passenger traffic was up 12% over last year with more than 323,300 passing through the facility, an airport spokesperson said.

But despite the rainy weather and at-times large crowds Sunday, officials said, queues moved quickly, and few flights were delayed.

The onrush started early. Lines of bleary-eyed travelers snaked through Terminal E starting at 4 a.m., though airport employees did their best to keep the mood light and the lines moving at a clip.

Video circulated on Twitter of one staffer dancing and doling out fist bumps and high fives as she directed passengers with songs and chants.

By midafternoon, though, passenger traffic had slowed considerably. Security wait times were down to an average of five minutes or less, officials said.

That left Pat McCleary looking — as his wife, Kathleen, put it while they waited in the baggage claim after returning from a weekend in Florida — for something else to complain about.

“The ticket prices were out of control this year,” said McCleary, 60, of Cherry Hill. “But once we got to the airport today — no, no problems.”

At the other end of the baggage carousel, Daniel Martinez, 12, and sister Ava, 10, passed the time waiting for their bags playfully swatting at each other and ignoring chiding from their father, Josue. The family had just returned from a Thanksgiving visit to family in Chicago.

“Honestly, the most stressful part of today was traveling with these two,” Josue said. Ava, meanwhile, leaned in hoping to land one last punch on her brother.

Outside, lines of taxis idled, awaiting an end to the midafternoon lull.

“It’ll pick up by evening,” driver Mohammed Shahjahan said, as he leaned against his car hoping a fare would come soon. “Vacations got to end, and at some point, everyone’s got to go home.”

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