HOUSTON — Thanksgiving kicks off the annual holiday travel season across the U.S., and this year industry experts estimate more than 27 million passengers will be flying over the river and over the woods to destinations near and far.
At the Houston Airport System, during the traditional holiday travel period — Nov. 18 through Nov. 29 — more than 1.5 million passengers are expected to come and go through George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and William P. Hobby Airport (HOU). Bush Airport is the eighth busiest airport in the U.S. during the holiday period, with an estimated total of nearly 1.2 million passengers over the period — nearly 19,000 more than last year — and Hobby Airport is expected to see an estimated 360,000 passengers, an estimated increase of more than 32,000 in passenger numbers compared to last year’s holiday total.
The busiest days for travel during the holiday actually come after Thanksgiving. At Bush Airport, nearly 230,000 passengers are expected on Saturday and Sunday after Thanksgiving, as travelers return home from the holiday. At Hobby Airport, nearly 75,000 passengers are expected to arrive and depart on Sunday and Monday after the holiday.
With that in mind, there are a number of things travelers can do to help keep things moving smoothly in and out of the airports. One key will be drop off and pick up locations at both airports. Both Bush Airport and Hobby Airport have a “active loading” policy — like all airports across the United States — which means that while dropping off or picking up passengers, parking is not permitted near the terminal in those designated loading and unloading areas.
However, there is a way to get to the airport early without having to park in a terminal garage or drive laps in the traffic circling the facilities. Cell phone lots at both Bush Airport and Hobby Airport are available for those waiting to pick up arriving passengers.
There are two cell phone lots at Bush Airport — one just off northbound John F. Kennedy Boulevard and one off westbound Will Clayton Boulevard — and at Hobby Airport a cell phone lot is available on westbound Airport Boulevard, just before the entrance to the airport.
The lots are open every day, and there is no charge to park at the cell phone lots for short term waits. Signage marks all three locations, and drivers can wait there until their arriving party calls to tell you they have picked up their checked bags and are ready for you to pick them up at curbside.
Using the cell phone lots can alleviate both congestion on the pickup and drop off locations and provide a quick, stress-free trip to the airport.
Here are some other helpful hints that can make traveling this time of year a little easier:
- Get here early: Arrive two hours before scheduled departure time to ensure you can get parked or unloaded and to your gate in plenty of time.
- Use technology: Our passenger-focused fly2houston.com website is your first and best stop for information on flight status, parking available, shopping at the airport and even wait times at TSA security checkpoints. Use the web to get the latest flight information and check in for your flight 24 hours prior to departure. The free WiFi at both Bush and Hobby airports has been rated as some of the fastest in any airport in the country and world, and there are plenty of charging stations and some seating at both airports with electrical outlets for re-charging your mobile devices.
- Prepare for security line: Have your boarding pass and ID ready for display, remove your shoes and everything from your pockets before going through the metal detector or whole body imaging technology at the checkpoint. Follow the 3-1-1 rule in regards to liquids in your carry-on bag. Visit the TSA’s website (tsa.gov) for a list of prohibited items and helpful travel tips, and if you’re a member of TSA Pre✓, follow the signs at checkpoints to participate in expedited screening.
Passengers also can get updates on available parking and more by following the Houston Airports Twitter accounts @IAH and @HobbyAirport.
Learn more about both airports at the Houston Airport System website.