If you’re headed to Charlotte’s airport next week, arrive early. And expect crowds.
Charlotte Douglas International Airport is projecting its busiest Thanksgiving week, with about 25,500 travelers departing Tuesday and the same number Wednesday. That’s up from about 24,000 on each of those two days last Thanksgiving.
“It’s going to be a busy period,” said Assistant Aviation Director Herbert Judon, urging travelers to arrive two hours early to make sure they can get through security in time to catch their flights.
A new hourly parking deck should be open before Thanksgiving, Judon said, adding 4,000 parking spaces. Airport officials hope that means fewer cars circling the terminal to wait for passengers. An exact date for the deck’s opening hasn’t been set, but inspectors are at the airport this week to give final approval.
Even with the new parking deck, Judon cautioned travelers to expect delays.
“You still may see backups,” he said. “There will be lines.”
Thanksgiving week is usually the busiest of the year at Charlotte Douglas. The airport’s busiest single day was the day after the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, when about 29,000 people left town.
Although the airport sees more than 100,000 travelers in a typical day, most of them are changing planes, rather than starting or ending their journeys in Charlotte.
Traffic will continue to be heavy after Thanksgiving, as people head home. On Saturday, Charlotte Douglas is forecasting 23,000 local passengers, compared to 14,000 to 16,000 on a typical, nonholiday weekend Saturday.
Judon said the airport will have extra traffic control officers next week, and will also station more workers in the lobby.
The $120 million new hourly deck will be free for the first hour and $1 per half-hour after that, with a $20 maximum. Judon said travelers should use that option to wait for passengers, rather than circle.
“You can essentially come in here and meet and greet folks at no cost or low cost,” Judon said.
If you want to see where parking is available, you can check parking.charlotteairport.com or call 704-359-5555.
Sari Koshetz, spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration, asked people to use common sense when packing and avoid bringing banned items that could cause delays at security checkpoints. To double-check what you can and can’t bring, visit www.tsa.gov.
“We want to remind you not to bring your gun to the checkpoint,” she said. “You can’t bring knives and hatchets and chainsaws.”
Although that advice might sound obvious, Koshetz said it’s not being followed. Already this year, the TSA has confiscated 41 guns at checkpoints, more than all of last year.