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Memorial Day travel weekend approaches

By Maria Jose Subiria

msubiria@news-daily.com

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport will see a 5 percent increase in the number of passengers traveling over the Memorial Day weekend this year, compared to last year's Memorial Day weekend traffic, airport officials said.

Ben DeCosta, aviation general manager for Hartsfield-Jackson, said Wednesday the airport is expecting 1.5 million passengers to fly between today, and Tuesday.

"Summer travel is here, and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is ready," DeCosta said.

According to DeCosta, though some airlines may see a slight decrease in flight traffic this summer season based on the global economy, the airport's largest carriers won't be affected as much at Hartsfield-Jackson.

"Our two hub carriers, Delta Air Lines, and AirTran Airways, will be down in traffic, but not as much in this airport ... we are the most efficient airport in the world, according to Air Transport Research Society," he said.

New marked security lanes have reduced passenger wait-time dramatically, said DeCosta.

According to airport officials, the total number of security lanes jumped from 22 to 32 in October 2008. Marked lanes also classify passengers into business travelers, casual travelers and passengers with children in strollers, or with special needs, to make the security checkpoint experience run more smoothly.

"This year marks the first summer travelers can take advantage of marked security lanes," said DeCosta.

The Transportation Security Administration began phase one of the Secure Flight passenger vetting program on May 15.

"There has been several recent changes that have had a positive impact at security checkpoints," said Mary Leftridge Byrd, federal security director for the TSA at Hartsfield-Jackson.

Phase one requires passengers to enter their full name, when making airline reservations, as it appears on the valid government identification they will travel with, said TSA officials. TSA has also recently assumed responsibility from airlines who have been responsible for checking passengers' names against government watch lists for domestic flights, the TSA said.

"By enhancing and streamlining the watch list matching process, the Secure Flight program makes travel safer and easier for millions of Americans," said Gale Rossides, acting administrator for the TSA. "During this phase of the Secure Flight program, passengers are encouraged to book their reservations using their name as it appears on their government issued ID, and the travel information they use for booking flights."

"With the summer season here, TSA is prepared in coordination with staffing here [at Hartsfield-Jackson], and across the country," said Leftridge Byrd.

Leftridge Byrd said transportation security officers are also asking passengers to put their shoes on the screening belt, instead of in a bin, as they go through the X-ray area.

This policy also began on May 15, and according to TSA officials, helps in keeping the bins less cluttered, and gives officers a better view of shoes.

For those traveling by land on Memorial Day weekend, the Georgia Department of Transportation is advising travelers to expect delays on some roadways.

"We anticipate a very busy travel weekend," said Gerald Ross, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Transportation. "Traffic congestion on Thursday and Friday will be heavier than normal, with rush hour beginning as early as 1 p.m., in high volume areas."

According to GDOT officials, those areas include Interstate 75 southbound in Clayton and Henry counties, the downtown connector and some routes in the northern suburbs.