Austin airport clogging as travelers rush home for the holidays

Security Pre-Check program sees increase in travelers

United Airlines line at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (Daniel Guerrero/KXAN)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A record-breaking amount of passengers are expected to fly out of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport today.

The airport is warning  travelers to expect lines and pack smart. ABIA added a valet service and more parking this year, at least 12,000 spots are available around the airport, said Derick Hacket, ABIA spokesman.

Passengers should plan to head to the airport two hours early to get through ticket and security lines.

KXAN asked the airport if the holiday falling on the weekend will add to the number of passengers this year. The busiest days of the year are the two days before and after Christmas, no matter the days of the week, Hacket said.

Some passengers said the holiday on the weekend gives them a longer stay.

“It’s more convenient. It’s easier for us to get away from our business on the weekend,” said passenger Clint Walker. “So, this let us put a couple of days on each side of it. If it had been in the middle of the week, we would have missed a whole week of work.”

For travelers looking to avoid the crowd this holiday, the airport said a good option may be flying on Christmas day.

More than 12,000 people flew out of ABIA on Dec. 25 last year.

One way passengers may be able to zip through lines is through the Transportation Security Administration’s Pre-Check program. Nationwide more than four million people nationwide have signed up to use Pre-Check.

That is twice as many from last year. About 11,600 of those passengers are in Austin.

For passengers who are in the Pre-Check program, the average time in the security line is five minutes. They don’t have to take off their shoes, remove belts or jackets or take their laptops out of carrying cases.

TSA agents screen and offer background checks before passengers get to the airport. Once they pay a fee, passengers are in the Pre-Check program for five years.

About 40 percent of ABIA’s passengers are in the Pre-Check program, that is up by 10 percent from last year.