Travelers from Tucson International Airport can expect bigger crowds this Thanksgiving holiday week as airlines have added flights and new security procedures are underway, airport officials say.
Like other airports, TIA is recommending passengers arrive at least two hours ahead of their departure time as airlines have added 6 percent more flights this week to cope with demand, Tucson Airport Authority spokeswoman Jessie Butler said.
Statewide, AAA projects that Thanksgiving holiday air travel will rise 4.4 percent, with more than 66,000 Arizona air travelers.
The biggest surge at TIA will be on Sunday, Nov. 26, when airlines have scheduled 128 departing and arriving flights — a 25 percent increase over the airport’s daily average.
Heavy traffic is expected at the airport from Tuesday afternoon through Thanksgiving morning; the quietest times will be Thanksgiving evening and Friday, TIA said.
Travelers also should be aware of new security screening procedures rolled out at TIA in late October by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, which among other things require all electronic devices larger than a mobile phone to be scanned separately.
The new procedures haven’t noticeably increased checkpoint lines, Butler said.
“We’re not expecting longer than the normal checkpoint lines we get during the holidays,” she said.
The length of security checkpoint lines is largely dependent on TSA staffing levels and the availability of PreCheck expedited screening lanes, she said, noting that the TSA monitors airline departure schedules to staff for expected traffic.
Those who haven’t flown from TIA recently will notice several changes in gate and security areas, including wider checkpoints with Disneyland-like roped queues winding back and forth.
If the checkpoint queues are full when you arrive, don’t despair – Butler said with all lanes open it only takes about 10 minutes to move through the entire queue.
- TSA security checkpoints: The checkpoint entrances to both concourses have been moved. Passengers departing on Southwest or United airlines reach the “A” gates at the east end of the ticketing level. Passengers departing on Alaska, American or Delta airlines reach the “B” gates from the checkpoint at the west end of the ticketing level.
- Parking and construction: Installation of solar canopies in the parking lots in front of the terminal has been completed and all spaces are now available.
- Concessions: Construction continues on new food and beverage concessions. Sir Veza’s Kitchen and Kantina and Beyond Bread are open past security near the “A” gates for Southwest and United passengers. Mixta Kitchen Express, a temporary food outlet, is open for passengers on Alaska, American and Delta departing from the “B” gates. Pre-security, Noble Hops is open in the center of the ticketing level.
- New TSA requirements: Carry-on electronic devices larger than a cellphone must be removed from cases and placed in a bin for screening. Also, passengers now are required to put liquids such as soaps — limited to 3 ounces each and bagged in a quart-size resealable clear bag under the TSA’s 3-1-1 rule — in single screening bowls or bins, rather than keeping them in carry-on bags. Members of the TSA's PreCheck expedited screening program are exempt from the new rules. For complete details, go to tsa.gov
- Meeting arriving passengers: Real-time flight arrival times are available at flytucson.com. A cellphone waiting lot is available for free, provided the driver remains with the vehicle. Turn right just before reaching the terminal to access the lot.