GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – Headed to the airport this weekend? AAA is forecasting that 4.41 million of us will travel by air through Sunday, which is about 8% more than in 2021, although still fewer than the 4.58 million who flew during Thanksgiving 2019 (or before the COVID-19 pandemic).

The Transportation Security Administration says that today and Wednesday and Sunday are the busiest travel days of the year. Some suggest flying on Thanksgiving morning to save you hassles, but in 2021 about 77% more people flew on Sunday after Thanksgiving than on the holiday.

Travelers wheel the bags past the line for TSA screening in Terminal B at Logan International Airport on Monday, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

The airports in North Carolina all will be busy. Charlotte Douglas and Raleigh-Durham are among the 50 busiest airports in the nation and ranked high among their peers.

On Tuesday RDU announced that it was expecting 332,950 passengers to pass through the airport this weekend, which is about 14% more than in 2019, that airport’s busiest year on record. RDU says it expects 55,372 passengers on Wednesday and 59,628 on Sunday, which would beat its single-day record by 9%.

A passenger jet takes off at Raleigh Durham International Airport. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

“We encourage everyone flying over the holidays to take steps to make their travel experience as smooth as possible, including arriving at the airport at least a couple of hours before their scheduled departure,” Michael Landguth, president and CEO of the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority, said in a release.

Charlotte Douglas officials have said they were expecting about 822,000 passengers during a 10-day span that started last week. That’s about 2% below their pre-pandemic levels.

Officials at Piedmont Triad International Airport in Greensboro said earlier this month that PTI’s passenger count through October was about 34% ahead of last year, although still below 2019. A big holiday weekend is expected.

“Our numbers look strong,” PTI spokesperson Shannon Allen said in an email to WGHP. “Thanksgiving is always peak travel week and we’re hopeful that this trend continues.”

AAA says overall that air travel is up by more than 330,000 travelers and has achieved nearly 99% of the 2019 volume. 

“Airport parking spaces fill up fast, so reserve a spot ahead of time and arrive early,” Paula Twidale, AAA’s senior vice president of travel, said in a release. “Anticipate long TSA lines. If possible, avoid checking a bag to allow for more flexibility if flights are delayed or you need to reschedule.”

Tips for smoother travel

To help cope with those issues, officials at both PTI and RDU crafted a list of tips for passengers:

  • Have your boarding pass ready. Either print the pass or download it to your phone.
  • Know your status. Delays happen. Know where your flight stands and use the time appropriately.
  • Arrive early. Extra time for parking, checking bags and the TSA screening process is invaluable. And pack wisely: TSA will require that you remove for inspection any electronics larger than your cellphone.
  • Patience is a virtue, so prepare for lines and delays. No matter the airport or the efficiency, you sometimes will have to wait. That’s particularly true for the security screening process.
  • Prepare for security screening. Check liquids, electronics or anything that could slow down the process. Remember that liquids, gels, aerosols, creams (including tanning items) and pastes must be 3.4 ounces or less, and all bottles must fit in a quart-size plastic bag, which you will place in a tray for screening. Dress accordingly (shoes, belts and jackets will come off). You can save yourself time by signing up for TSA Pre-Check.
  • Limit your carry-on baggage. Know what’s allowed and what makes sense, but you are usually allowed a purse/briefcase and one carry-on bag for under your seat or the overhead storage.
  • Know what you can’t bring and don’t bring it. That means firearms, ammunition and knives won’t be OK with the TSA. Don’t follow the lead of Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-Hendersonville.
  • Know your food. If you are bringing an edible item, make sure it’s not liquid or gel and subject to the TSA’s limitations. You always can pack your mother’s fruitcake inside a checked bag.

Want more info?

You can reach a TSA Cares Helpline by calling 855-787-2227 or visiting its website.