Thanksgiving travel time is here.
While Charlotte Douglas International Airport doesn’t expect quite as many travelers as it had pre-pandemic, traffic continues to rise.
And officials expect the crowds to swell when people try to get home after squeezing out those last few hours with loved ones next week.
- “Our busiest time will be the return traffic,” airport Chief Operating Officer Jack Christine said.
By the numbers: The Sunday after Thanksgiving, Nov. 28 is expected to have the most travelers with an estimated 35,000 people, Christine said.
- By comparison, the Sunday after Thanksgiving in 2019 saw 38,000 travelers.
Why it matters: No one wants to miss Thanksgiving. Here are six tips to help you navigate holiday travel at Charlotte Douglas.
1. Be in the building two hours early.
Not on your way two hours before your flight, or parking two hours prior, but physically inside the airport.
- “That will give them adequate time to go through the ticketing process, the security screening process and ultimately get to their departures,” Christine said.
- The airport won’t open additional security checkpoints, but five will be available.
2. Masks remain required unless actively eating or drinking.
- Regardless what the mask mandate looks like in Mecklenburg County, airport property is still under a federal mask mandate.
- “Please remember to wear your mask if you are in our parking lots, on our shuttle buses and clearly inside the terminal,” Christine said.
3. Prepare for parking.
- The airport has 21,000 public parking spots, and officials expect most to be filled by Thanksgiving.
- Arrange parking before heading to the airport — at least 12 hours before you arrive there.
- Check parking availability on their app, website or call 704-359-5555.
4. Use the whole curb when dropping someone off or picking them up.
- Traffic at drop-off and pick-up is always congested, but it will be even worse during the holidays.
- Using the whole curb — rather than the immediate areas as you pull up, which will more than likely already be full — helps prevent traffic accidents and lessens the tendency for traffic to bottleneck.
5. Leave firearms and ammunition at home.
- TSA has found 95 firearms in passenger carry on bags this year, compared to 55 last year and the mid 70s in 2019, TSA spokesperson Mark Howell said.
- Federal authorities will fine you for bringing a firearm and you can be criminally charged or arrested here. You can also lose your CCW (concealed carry weapon) permit.
6. Be kind.
- It’s easy to get competitive while trying to catch a flight, even without the stress of the holidays, but as Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Capt. Nathan King said, “the people around you are not your competition. They are fellow travelers.”
- This goes for how you treat flight attendants as well.
- “You’ve heard from the flight attendants union and you’ve heard from all various airlines, the assaults on airline employees is up and the numbers mid-year were 85% of flight attendants had dealt with unruly passengers, 17% have been in physical interactions with them,” King said.