Nearly 6 million Californians will leave town for Thanksgiving in 2017, the most in a decade, making for crowded roads, airports and trains. Here's the scene at Sacramento International Airport. Benji Egel The Sacramento Bee
Nearly 6 million Californians will leave town for Thanksgiving in 2017, the most in a decade, making for crowded roads, airports and trains. Here's the scene at Sacramento International Airport. Benji Egel The Sacramento Bee

Transportation

Despite early security backup, nearly all flights leave on schedule at Sacramento airport

By Benjy Egel

begel@sacbee.com

November 22, 2017 07:16 AM

UPDATED November 22, 2017 03:09 PM

After an early rush, Thanksgiving travel seemed to be going smoothly at Sacramento International Airport on Wednesday morning, with nearly all outgoing flights on schedule and security wait times of 15 to 20 minutes at 11:30 a.m.

Most of the passenger traffic came earlier in the morning, when airport spokeswoman Laurie Slothower said the TSA screening line backed up the hallway leading to the parking garage at Terminal A.

The line took 35 minutes to get through, Slothower said, while the longest wait for travel Tuesday was 48 minutes. Passengers didn’t have nearly as long of a wait in Terminal B, which has eight security lanes to Terminal A’s three.

A delay for Alaska Airlines flight out of San Diego has caused the return flight to be delayed 52 minutes past its 1:35 p.m. expected start time. Other afternoon flights to Minneapolis and Los Angeles are running 20 to 25 minutes late.

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Sam Valine, 24, was flying to Denver then Omaha on Wednesday morning to spend Thanksgiving with his girlfriend’s family. He showed up 90 minutes early for his flight in a slight panic after seeing TV reports of half-hour waits to get through security.

“I wasn’t nervous until I saw the news at the gym this morning around 5, because an hour-and-a-half (before a flight) is normally more than enough time,” Valine said. “But once I saw that line, I thought I better get down here.”

Dennis and Cheryl Dworman have made the cross-country trek to visit their family on the East Coast around Thanksgiving and Christmas before. Every time, Cheryl said, the airport is packed with antsy travelers looking to get away.

The Dwormans opted instead for a shorter flight to Phoenix this year for a weekend of golfing. They arrived two hours early expecting the airport to be busy before their 9:10 a.m. departure. Even if it had been crowded, Dennis said, it would have been their best option.

“We’ve tried driving down to Southern California on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving before. It was a nightmare,” Dennis said. “So we thought, ‘Why not make this our new tradition?’ 

On Nov. 9, nearly 100 airport passengers missed early-morning flights due to long security lines.

With 20 seasonal flights added for the holidays and all planes filled to 90 percent capacity or greater, employee schedules were rearranged to keep the airport fully stocked at all hours. The airport also solicited volunteer teams of Boarding Area Relaxation Corps therapy dogs to roam the terminals Wednesday morning, and one more will scamper around Terminal A from 7-9 p.m.

“We start planning for holidays in September to make sure we have enough staff and know who’s going where and when,” Slothower said. “Let’s just say if (airport staff) wanted to go on vacation this week, it probably got denied.”

All departing passengers are still advised to arrive two hours early to their flights, though Slothower said the lines would likely not reach 5 a.m. levels again Wednesday.

Passenger traffic has increased month-over-month for 43 consecutive months, Slothower said.

Benjy Egel: 916-321-1052, @BenjyEgel