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Flying out of Austin for Thanksgiving? Expect busy terminals, airport says

To help passengers with upcoming Thanksgiving travel, the airport will offer a new service called SkySquad.

AUSTIN, Texas — With Thanksgiving just around the corner, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) is expecting a busy travel season. The airport is advising travelers to expect a busier than usual terminal from Friday, Nov. 18, through Monday, Nov. 28. 

Although the airport has seen unprecedented air travel so far this year, the airport said airlines are offering 35% more seats than in November 2019. Even then, airport officials ask that passengers – especially those who have not flown in a while and families traveling with children – be prepared and plan accordingly this season. 

To help passengers with upcoming Thanksgiving travel, the airport will offer a new service called SkySquad. The service connects passengers with a trained airport assistant to help passengers from the curbside to their gate and help with ticketing, checking bags, loading items on the security belt, keeping an eye on travel items and more.

"We are told we are angels when we get to the gate. People just feel so good having had what can be a really stressful experience feel easy and worry free." said Megan Smith with SkySquad. 

Lauren Patton and her family from Austin used the service as they were flying to New York.

"It is nice to be able to walk through the line, not hold your stuff, and to be able to keep your eye on the kids, you know, because you are holding your luggage you are trying to make sure they are not running away," said Patton.

Passengers can book an assistant 24 hours in advance on the SkySquad website or by calling 877-359-2256.

The airport also shared tips to keep in mind when planning for Thanksgiving travel: 

When to arrive

The airport said passengers using general TSA screening should arrive at least 2.5 hours before departure for domestic flights and 3 hours before departure for international flights. 

Passengers that need to check luggage, return a rental car or complete other activities before joining the TSA security line are advised to arrive even earlier. 

To speed up the process, passengers can enroll in TSA PreCheck. On-site enrollment is offered to departing passengers after they are cleared through security, according to a release from the airport. Learn more about the program.

Security screening and packing

The airport has four security screening checkpoints. All of them lead to all the gates. 

The TSA has told the airport that passengers continue to bring a record number of guns, which are prohibited, to security checkpoints this year. Bringing such items causes delays for passengers. Check out guidance on how to pack and what items are allowed at the TSA's website.

Non-liquid food items are permitted in both carry-on and checked bags. If the food is packed with ice or ice packs in a cooler or other containers, the ice or ice packs must be completely frozen when brought through screening. If the ice or ice packs are partially melted and have any liquid at the bottom of the container, it will not be permitted. 

The TSA recommends sending gifts ahead by mail or waiting to wrap them until you arrive at your destination. 

Parking and dropping off passengers

If you plan on parking at the airport, check out the parking website. You can reserve a parking space and check for real-time parking availability before arriving at the airport. 

The airport recommends reserving a space in advance because spaces fill up fast.

Passengers should also include extra time for shuttle service to the terminal as it runs approximately every 15 to 20 minutes. 

Travelers can use either the upper level for departures or the lower level for arrivals to drop off passengers. Vice versa, if you're picking up someone and the lower level for arrivals is backed up, go to the upper-level departures and pick up from there. Use whichever level is least congested.

Mobility and accessibility needs

Passengers who require wheelchair assistance need to contact their airline prior to their travel date to set up the service.

The airport said it has a new Mobility Lounge for passengers using wheelchairs and other mobility assistive devices located on the ticketing/departures level. The airport also has a new Mobility Assistance Zone that provides priority access for Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles, taxis and rideshares to pick up passengers with limited mobility. 

It is located on the lower-level curbside one lane across from the G and H pick-up areas; it is free and open daily from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m.

The airport said travelers can also request help through TSA Cares Assistance. The helpline provides travelers with disabilities, medical screening and other special circumstances additional assistance during the security screening process. Call the line at 855-787-2227. 

Checking into your flight

The airport said airline ticket counters open at various times. Passengers can contact the airline directly for hours of operation. 

Passengers without checked luggage can bypass ticket counters and head to TSA screening checkpoints by: 

  • Use a mobile boarding pass to skip the airline ticket counters
  • Use a self-service kiosk located inside the terminal to print boarding passes
  • In addition to traditional check-in procedures, some airlines offer outside curbside check-in on the upper level

Allegiant and Frontier travelers

Passengers flying Allegiant or Frontier will depart from the South Terminal, which is a separate terminal located near U.S. 183 and Burleson Road at 10000 Logistics Lane. 

This terminal is not accessible from the main Barbara Jordan Terminal. The airport provides a shuttle service to the terminal and encourages Allegiant and Frontier passengers to park on-site at the South Terminal to save time.

Passengers needing assistance at any point in their journey at the airport are encouraged to call the Airport Operations Center at 512-530-2242 or to ask any Department of Aviation staff member for assistance.

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