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The busiest day ever?

By Ed Brock

It was just too many people traveling on the morning after Memorial Day that led to two-hour waits in security lines at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Tuesday.

"We think this was the busiest day in the history of the airport," said Hartsfield-Jackson spokeswoman Lanii Thomas, adding that airport officials hoped to learn by today if that was truly the case.

The airport and the Transportation Safety Administration took every step available to avoid the lines, Thomas said. All 18 security gates were open, but there were just too many people traveling, for business and to return home after the holiday.

Thomas said the lines were back to a normal 10-minute wait by around 9:15 a.m.

By around 3:30 p.m. the lines were relatively short, but the airport still seemed pretty busy to Phily Coulibaly of Chamblee, who was dropping off his cousin. She had come to visit from Mali, Africa and was on her way home Tuesday.

"This is a pretty good airport," Coulibaly said. "It's just busy and out of control right now."

Twice last month the lines for the security checkpoint poured outside the building. And as the summer travel season begins officials are warning travelers to expect more long lines in the future.

That wouldn't surprise Tim Penick of Loganville who arrived after the major rush was over to fly to Raleigh for business.

"I'm never happy to be at the airport. I only travel by airplane for business, never for pleasure. It's just such a hassle," Penick said. "I'm only here because I have to be."

Hartsfield-Jackson officials have warned for months they could not handle the summer travel crush without extra help from the federal TSA.

Part of the problem at Hartsfield is its "keyhole" security system that can quickly turn into a bottleneck.

Rather than having security checkpoints at every terminal, like Los Angeles International Airport, passengers are screened at a single 18-lane checkpoint. Hartsfield-Jackson has just one terminal.

Four more lanes are under construction that should allow the security screeners to process 800 more passengers an hour, and they are also expecting 59 new screeners, Thomas said. The construction of the new lines should be finished by the end of the month but she isn't sure when the new screeners will arrive.

The airport also hopes to have a new educational video for travelers ready by the end of the month as well. The video would play repeatedly in the atrium to remind less experienced travelers about how to get through the security checkpoint quickly, Thomas said.

"A lot of standard things that those people who travel for business might know but people who travel for the holiday may not think of," Thomas said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.