Christmas countdown starts holiday travel frenzy



Posted on December 23, 2011 at 10:15 AM

Updated Friday, Dec 23 at 10:22 AM

AUSTIN -- The holiday rush is on as the countdown to Christmas winds down.

A steady stream of passengers only grew throughout the day Thursday at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

AAA reports close to 7.5 million Texans will be traveling this holiday season, up slightly from last year. Still Thursday morning, passengers at A.B.I.A. didn't have too much competition.

"This is about what I expected," said traveler Jaclyn Faulker. "Not too crowded."

On average more 24,000 passengers come through Austin's airport every day and while things may not seem busy now, come the holiday season, crowds can come and go in a hurry.

"You don't want to be the passenger in the checkpoint sweating whether you're going to make it to your flight on time," said Jim Halbrook with A.B.I.A.

Despite new security lines, wait time has already approached the one hour mark. This week, Southwest Airlines added flights, trying to handle the 2,000 extra people flying out of Austin each day.

That's a lot, but nowhere close to the 6.5 million drivers on the roads. Blanca Nunez started her holiday trip 1200 miles ago in Saint Cloud, Minnesota.

"Horrible, too much traffic sometimes," said Nunez. "Too much stopping, car problems."

Overheating forced her to take a break, still five hours from her destination. For the working mother, it's a struggle worth the payoff. For the quarter million other Texas travelers, there's the buses, trains, and boats.

"It's going to take me, you're going to get married by the time I get home," said bus traveler Craig Allen. After missing his flight, Allen now faces a 40 hour bus ride to Philadelphia.

"It's priceless," said Allen. "I haven't seen my family in six years. It's priceless that's the only thing that keeps a smile on my face at this point."

If you're airport bound over the holidays, A.B.I.A. is offering a few things that make travel a bit easier. Those picking people up are encouraged to use the new cell phone waiting area off Spirit of Texas Drive. Workers are also placed in parking lots to help direct travelers to open spaces.

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