By Maria-Jose Subiria
Officials with Atlanta's airport, and local and state governments are offering advisories and tips to help ensure that travelers will have less-stressful, efficient and safe journeys during Thanksgiving, and the rest of the holiday-traveling season.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport wants its passengers to be prepared for their flights, according to Katena Carvajales, media relations manager for Atlanta's airport.
"We are excited to welcome another holiday season, and are well-prepared to get passengers to their destinations," added Louis Miller, aviation general manager at Hartsfield-Jackson. "Travelers should follow these simple steps to reduce stress and create a more pleasurable airport travel experience."
Carvajales said passengers should arrive at the airport 90 minutes before boarding a domestic flight, and two hours before boarding an international flight.
Individuals who sign up for "Trak-a-Flight," a free airport, online service, will have updated information about their flight delivered to their e-mail accounts, personal digital assistants (PDAs), or mobile devices, she said. Trak-a-Flight is available on the airport's web site, www.atlanta-airport.com.
"Trak-a-Line," said the spokeswoman, is another free service passengers use to update themselves on actual wait times in security checkpoint areas.
Passengers, who are driving to the airport and would like more information about the airport's parking availability, should call, 1-877-ATL-PARK, or visit the airport's web site, said Carvajales. Hartsfield-Jackson has more than 8,000 parking spaces in its Park-Ride parking lots, which cost $9 per day. These parking lots also offer shuttle service to the airport's terminal, she added.
"Use the airport's hourly parking lots when picking up or dropping off passengers," said Carvajales. "Parking in these lots is free for the first 15 minutes and costs just $2 for the first hour. Unattended vehicles parked at the curb will be ticketed and towed."
When approaching security checkpoint areas, passengers should only have one carry-on bag, plus one personal item, including purses, briefcases, laptops and backpacks, she said. Individuals should contact their airline for additional information, she said.
Passengers should remove their coats and take their laptops out of their protective cases before going through security, she said. Travelers must follow the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) 3-1-1 rule for carry-on bags: a bottle of 3.4 ounces or less by volume, one quart-sized clear, plastic, zip-top bag, and one carry-on bag per passenger, said Carvajales. "Wait until you reach your destination to wrap presents," she said. "Wrapped gifts may be opened and inspected."
The Georgia Department of Transportation suspended construction-related lane closures on interstate highways and primary state roads, today at 5 a.m., said David Spear, spokesman for the department. Suspensions will last through midnight, on Sunday, Nov. 28. This suspension is to facilitate travel for the Thanksgiving holidays, he said.
"Georgians are exceedingly patient with our construction throughout the year," added Vance Smith, Jr., commissioner of the Georgia Department of Transportation. "We appreciate it very much and enjoy giving them these well-deserved breaks from lane closures. We hope everyone has a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving."
Furthermore, said Spear, the department reminds motorists to remain cautious of the expected heavy holiday traffic. "In addition, crews may be working, and equipment may be staged in proximity to roadways, and safety concerns may require that some long-term lane closures remain in place," said Spear. "Also, incident management or emergency maintenance-related lane closures could become necessary on any route."
Motorists are urged to call 511 for statewide travel information, including traffic conditions, incidents, lane closures and delays due to troublesome weather, he said.
Travelers driving south in Georgia may run into smoke and fog in several counties, said Craig Solomon, another spokesman for the Georgia Transportation Department.
The Arabia Swamp fire may affect visibility for motorists traveling through Clinch, Lanier, Lowndes, Echols, Tift, Thomas, Colquitt, Brooks, Cook, Berrien, Irwin, Atkinson, Ben Hill, Ware, Bacon, Jeff Davis, Telfair and Charlton counties, said Solomon. The Arabia Swamp is located north of state road 122, in Clinch County, he said.
"Occasionally, heavy smoke from this wildfire and shifting winds are periodically reducing visibility on highways throughout the area," said Solomon. "Overhead and portable changeable message signs may be posted, if needed, to advise of current anticipated conditions."
Drivers should prepare themselves for possible long delays, unscheduled road closures and detours, added Solomon, who said these conditions could last through this week and continue past the holiday weekend, he said.
Henry Margusity, expert senior meteorologist for AccuWeather.com, said the Southeast, which includes the states of Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi, is the best area in the U.S., to travel during the holiday weekend, due to the warm weather.
Tennessee could be the only state that may have severe weather today. The troublesome weather may lead into Thanksgiving, he said.