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Airport officials warn of big exodus; travelers urged to arrive 3 hours early

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. Charlotte Douglas International Airport officials advise departing travelers to arrive three hours early for their flights on Friday, as thousands of Democratic National Convention delegates and workers head for home.

The terminal lobby will be at capacity throughout the day, airport officials warned Thursday on Twitter, and said travelers should prepare accordingly.

Security checkpoints will open at 3:30 a.m. – an hour earlier than normal, officials announced.

US Airways advises customers to arrive three hours before their scheduled domestic flight and four hours before their international flight.

Although President Barack Obama also will fly out on Friday, “We don’t expect significant delays,” airport Aviation Director Jerry Orr told the Observer. Orr said he wasn’t allowed to say when Air Force One is scheduled to depart.

Orr, meanwhile, said the airport long planned for Friday’s crowds.

“We’ll have lots of volunteers on hand to get people and bags on their way,” he said..

Also expect more airline and Transportation Security Administration staff in the lobby. They and airport volunteers will make sure passengers are in the correct lines and that they make their flights on time, airport officials said.

Orr compared Friday’s expected rush of passengers to the day before Thanksgiving, when “we have a tremendous number of people show up in a very short period of time. We expect it to be very similar to that,” he said.

The difference is that most travelers at Thanksgiving are parking their cars at the airport, Orr said.

“We’re used to dealing with a lot of people,” Orr added.

Beginning early Friday, the airport also will implement alternate traffic routes. The temporary changes will be designated with electronic directional roadway signs along airport property and roads leading into and out of the airport.

Traffic route details and parking updates will be broadcast on Airport Radio 1610 AM.

Traffic on Friday will be segmented as follows:

• Personal vehicles will be directed to the lower level and are encouraged to use hourly parking to drop off and pick up passengers.

To assist drivers, hourly deck parking will be free while alternate traffic routes are in place.

• Larger commercial vehicles will be directed to the upper level.

• Curbside Valet will be closed for drop-off. Customers are encouraged to use Business Valet, 5601 Wilkinson Blvd.

• When using the cellphone lot, make sure passengers have collected their baggage and are waiting outside before proceeding to the terminal.

Normal traffic routes will resume Saturday.

Marusak: 704-987-3670; Twitter: @ jmarusak
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