By Billy Corriher and Ed Brock
Laura Roberts was glad to be getting out of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Monday.
"I think it's going to be a totally different world here tomorrow," Roberts said.
Roberts and her 18-month-old son Sam Roberts were on their way home to Forsyth, Ill., after visiting Roberts' aunt, Leah Wilson of McDonough. At a press conference nearby, federal n security director for the airport Willie Williams said the airport is ready for the Thanksgiving holiday travel time.
"If you're here, you're out of your car, you're out of the parking lot, you're at the front door about 90 minutes ahead of time, with the increased staffing that we have provided you should be able to make your plane on time and do all your visiting," Williams said.
All Georgia residents who will be travelling to spend Thanksgiving with loved ones should brace themselves for congestion on the roads as well as at the airports.
This holiday weekend, 1 million Georgia residents are expected to drive to their Thanksgiving destinations, and 168,000 are expected to fly, according to AAA estimates.
Since most people are travelling regionally to see their families, they do not need to fly, said AAA spokesman Gregg Laskoski. But increased traffic on the road will lead to complications, he said.
"We encourage people to get a good head start because of congestion," Laskoski said.
And the high price of gas does not normally deter holiday drivers, especially in Georgia where gas is relatively cheap, Laskoski said.
Gas prices in Georgia are now $1.34 a gallon for regular unleaded on average, slightly higher than in last November, according to AAA estimates.
"It's not going to have any impact because people put too much into the holidays," he said. "Even in a down economy? people still recognize that some things, like getting together for the holidays, are an absolute must."
More people are also depending on air travel this year, Laskoski said. After dropping substantially after Sept. 11, 2001, air travel is on the rise this year, he said.
The increased air travel means that anyone planning to fly through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport this weekend should also count on delays and arrive at least an hour and a half before their flight. The airport is expecting more than 233,000 passengers on Wednesday and almost 250,000 on Sunday.
The Transportation Security Administration is preparing for long lines at security checkpoints, TSA Public Affairs Officer Yolanda Clark said. Williams said that the 18 security lanes would all remain open for the entire day during Thanksgiving travel.
Passengers can save time by preparing in advance for security checks, Clark said. Passengers should remove their coats, avoid wearing anything metal, and check carry-on bags for prohibited items like knives, corkscrews or other sharp objects. Photo identification will be required for boarding.
The wrong shoes can also slow a traveler's passage through security, Williams said, since many have metal shanks that can activate a metal detector. There are self-testing machines at the checkpoints where people can test their shoes, but they should be prepared to take them off and send them through the baggage scanner.
Fliers should also remember to pack film inside carry-on bags to avoid damage by checked baggage screening. Clark said it also important for passengers not to carry wrapped gifts with them, because the packages may need to be opened for security purposes.
"Instead of having a beautifully wrapped gift demolished, we want passengers to wrap their presents on arrival," she said.
Delta Airlines offers a time saving option for Skymiles members, who can use the company Web site to print boarding passes from home and bypass airline check-in lines.