Thanksgiving Day Travelers Take Flight

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On a typical day, airports are crowded, airplanes are full and the whole travel experience can be miserable. So what happens when you take all of that and mix it together with a holiday? To find out, we visit Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Between the lines and the crowds and the dashes to gates, airports are busy places. Atlanta's airport is one of the busiest in the world, especially during Thanksgiving, which is the busiest holiday for travel. Charles Edwards of member station WABE braved the city's airport to bring us this story.

CHARLES EDWARDS, BYLINE: So far this week, security lines inside Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport have been long. But, they're moving.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHATTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Hello folks, have a good flight.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Thank you.

EDWARDS: Brian Ellis was in one of those lines. He was flying from Atlanta to Michigan to spend Thanksgiving with family. But he got to the airport three hours before his flight. Turns out, he didn't need to.

BRIAN ELLIS: It's not remotely as busy as I expected it to be. Holiday travel can always be terrible.

EDWARDS: On the terrible meter, this Thanksgiving might rank a little lower than last year. Between this past Monday and next Monday, Atlanta officials expect 1.7 million passengers. And if that number holds up, that's a 5 percent drop from last Thanksgiving. Airfares are partly to blame. Ticket prices are 4 percent higher than last year. Plus, airline consultant Mike Boyd says airlines have reduced the number of seats they offer.

MIKE BOYD: Twenty-five years ago, airlines used to fill maybe 55, 60 percent of their seats. The Thanksgiving holiday would come. They'd fill 80 percent and wow. Now, they're filling over 80 percent all the time.

EDWARDS: Airlines might not feel the crush. But, passengers will. Today is expected to be one of, if not the, busiest travel days of the year.

For NPR News, I'm Charles Edwards in Atlanta.

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