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Your ABIA Holiday Survival Guide

Photo by I-Hwa Cheng for KUT News

It’s the busiest week of the year at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, and the holiday rush comes on top of a large increase in annual traffic at the airport.

Traffic over the entire year is up by about six percent. That’s 25,000 passengers a day, on average. Of course, it’s even busier during the holidays. Spokesman Jim Halbrook says it’s taking some passengers up to an hour to get through security. 

“The airlines have added additional flights during this week, and they’re all at 100 percent capacity, so we’ve got more travelers coming through this week than any normal kind of week,” Halbrook said.

Southwest Airlines alone is reporting an extra 2,000 passengers this week. Bottom line, arrive two hours before your departure time if you want to reduce your travel stress.

You can always check flight arrival and departure times online, but for updated information from passengers themselves, consider searching Twitter for “Austin airport” or “#ABIA.”

Remember that some passengers will be randomly pulled aside at security checkpoints and asked to walk through ABIA’s new body scanners. If you’re worried about health risks, you can decline and receive an “enhanced” pat down from a TSA agent.

Eater Austin produced this guide to all the food options at the airport. And if you haven’t been to ABIA in a while, you may be happy to learn that the airport started offering travelers 30 minutes of free WiFi in May.

You can also get a free picture with Santa Claus at the Southwest Airlines’ Gate 9. A series of live music performances at the airport ended this morning.

When you’re flying home or if you’re picking up out of town friends or relatives, there’s a cell phone waiting area by the cargo exit. While the new waiting area came close to the end of free 30 minute parking in ABIA garages, drivers can park in the lot and wait for passengers to call them instead of circling around the airport. The waiting area also has screens showing arrival times.

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @KUTnathan.
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