Pack some patience (and check the gravy): Here are some Thanksgiving airport travel tips
Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks is expecting passenger volumes to be near pre-pandemic levels at times this Thanksgiving week. Alisa Sisic, the Connecticut Airport Authority's public information officer, talked with Connecticut Public about what to expect and how to prepare.
Lori Mack: Are you concerned at all about that lake-effect storm [in western New York] messing up travel schedules in Connecticut?
Alisa Sisic: At the moment, we have not been notified by our airline partners of any changes to the schedules. Naturally, with weather, it's always a fluid situation. So the most important thing for our passengers to remember is really to stay in close contact with the airline to see if there's any changes to their flight schedules. Something that we remind our passengers all the time is that the airport does not make the decisions when it comes to cancellations or changes. As far as delays are concerned, it's really up to the airline to evaluate whether adjustments need to be made. So with any weather conditions that may impact travel, we strongly encourage passengers to reach out to the airline and really keep a close eye on that flight.
Mack: With the spread of RSV, flu and COVID, are you concerned about staffing issues?
Sisic: That's been a common challenge for all the airlines across the nation all year. The airlines have had an opportunity to really put their heads together for the holiday season. There's been a lot of proactivity to ensure that we don't see what we have seen over the summer months. Here at Bradley, we're not concerned about staffing shortages. I think we're adequately staffed, and the airlines have been proactively adjusting their schedules too, nationwide, just to ensure that everyone gets to where they need to get on time and without delays.
Mack: What can travelers do to help the process run smoothly?
Sisic: I think at this time of the year, we usually see passengers who have not traveled for a while. We forget that we're not supposed to be bringing something and might get mentioned in the TSA screening process.
We ask passengers to be prepared. A lot of the airlines now have an option where you can check in for your flight online, which is really a nice feature, so you don't have to wait in line here at the airport. However, if you do need assistance, you're checking bags, and so forth, we encourage passengers to really get here early. About 90 minutes before their flight's departure, to be here at the ticket counter.
Take a couple minutes, if you can, to review what you're packing and whether or not it should be in your carry-on luggage or checked luggage. The TSA has really made accessing them as a resource very easy. You can even find them on social media to ask them simple questions like: Can I pack this? Or can I take this? It's a gift, I'm allowed to wrap it? That way you can take care of the important things before you get through security. It makes the journey a little bit smoother.
Mack: So approximately how many people are you expecting to come through Bradley Airport? And how does that compare to previous years?
Sisic: For this entire Thanksgiving travel period, which normally starts at Bradley, the Friday before Thanksgiving and lasts through the Sunday after Thanksgiving, we're anticipating approximately 90,000 individuals to fly out. As you can imagine, that's a very large number of individuals in a condensed timeframe, which is why it's important to be mindful of these tips that we're giving out. And to encourage people to arrive early, especially if it's been a while that you have traveled.
You may need a reminder as to where to park and factor in if you're taking a shuttle, that you may need the extra time. Again, about 90,000 individuals traveling out, and that's approximately 15% fewer passengers than what we saw in 2019, which we're kind of using as a benchmark pre-COVID when we had normal operations.
Mack: Any advice for those who may be picking up family and friends at the airport?
Sisic: For individuals who are coming and picking up loved ones and they may not necessarily want to be parking, we certainly encourage them to utilize our cell phone waiting lot. So it's a lot specifically dedicated for individuals who are picking up their loved ones. It's free parking, and you can just sit idle until your loved one reaches out and says that they have arrived and they have retrieved their luggage, so it's located about five minutes from the terminal. This way you also don't have to feel like you're going to circulate the airport. Sitting idle on the curb is not permissible and certainly would create a lot of congestions.
The Transportation Security Administration offers the following travel tips:
1. Watch out for that gravy: "Certain foods, such as gravy, cranberry sauce, wine, jam and preserves, must be packed in a checked bag because they are considered liquids. If you can spill it, spray it, spread it, pump it or pour it, then it is a liquid and must be packed in a checked bag. As always, passengers may bring solid foods such as cakes and other baked goods through the TSA checkpoint."
2. No firearms or weapons at the checkpoint: Don't bring a firearm to a TSA checkpoint. "Passengers are prohibited from packing firearms in carry-on luggage. However, they are permitted to travel with firearms in checked baggage, as long as they are properly packaged and declared at the airline ticket counter. Firearms must be unloaded and packed in a hard-sided locked case. Ammunition must be in its original container and locked in the hard-sided case. The TSA website provides more information about the proper way to travel with a firearm."
3. Bring ID. "Before heading to the airport, travelers should make sure they have acceptable identification. Identity verification is an important step in the security screening process."
Bradley International Airport: Arrivals, departures, what to do inside the airport and more
Transportation Security Administration: Tips on how to travel