How travelers can navigate through the Austin airport, avoid headache-inducing traffic
The people who run Austin–Bergstrom International Airport have a message for you: If you're flying out of Austin this summer — or any time in the near future, really — expect the airport to be busy and plan accordingly.
This past weekend, an unusually large number of passengers — in part due to several major sporting events held in Austin — overwhelmed the airport's ability to process those passengers and led to security lines snaking all the way outside the main terminal, many missed flights and lots of anger from travelers.
While not anticipating similar passenger volume, airport officials said this week that they do expect more busy days this weekend and through the summer. Airport officials estimate 28,000 passengers will fly in and out of it daily from Friday to Monday, with the largest volume of travelers arriving before 8 a.m.
According to the news release, this trend is expected to continue regularly on Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays and Mondays because of increased flights to nonstop destinations and more available airline seats.
Airport officials said they expect to set a passenger record this year, with an estimated 20 million passengers going through the airport, breaking the 17.3 million record hit in 2019. The record for the single busiest day of departing passengers, 35,298, was set in October. 2021.
Airport officials offered a few ways travelers can better navigate Austin-Bergstrom to reduce time waiting at dreaded security checkpoint lines.
Show up at least two or three hours before your flight
Patricia Mancha, the spokesperson for the Transportation Security Administration’s Southwest region, said that passengers should plan to get to the airport two hours before a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight.
“It's really important for us to remind people that they need to arrive early,” she said. “One of the things that happened during the pandemic was that because there was a reduced volume. People were getting to the airport 15 or 20 minutes before their flight and making it on the aircraft. But that's not the case anymore.”
It's recommended that passengers checking baggage add extra time to those two- and three-hour windows.
According to Austin-Bergstrom officials, Thursday through Monday are the busiest days at the airport, with the morning hours before 8 a.m. seeing the highest volume of passengers per hour.
Check TSA wait times ahead of your arrival
Fliers can download the MyTSA app on their smartphones, which displays an estimated wait time for security checkpoints. However, Mancha said the data is crowdsourced from other travelers provide and is not always as accurate as it could be.
Get TSA PreCheck
To avoid waiting hours before you arrive at your destination gate, get TSA PreCheck.
TSA security screening checkpoints open at 3:30 a.m. with TSA PreCheck and Clear screening available at Checkpoints 1 and 2 West. A new security checkpoint will be open during peak travel periods near Southwest ticketing, Checkpoint 2 East.
Don't bring firearms, 'they slow down the line'
Mancha said it’s important that people not bring prohibited items in their carry-on luggage. When illicit items are found, it slows the security line down for everyone, and this is especially true of firearms.
“When people bring prohibited items to the checkpoint, they slow down the line,” she said. “Every time a gun is found, the inspection process stops. The police are called, they're the ones that respond to the incident. So every time that happens, it slows down the line behind you.”
Mancha encouraged people to check their luggage before they start packing to make sure there are no surprise items, and to look online for what is allowed before they finish packing.
Along with slowing the screening process, firearms found at TSA checkpoints can result in fines and penalties. So far, TSA officials have detected 16 firearms at the Austin airport's security checkpoints this year.
Travelers who need to travel with a firearm will be required to declare their weapon and check it at their airline ticket counter. For more information, visit austintexas.gov/airport.
Drop off lower or upper levels (it doesn't matter)
Steer away from traffic by dropping off travelers using the upper or lower level for arrival – either one works. From the lower level, passengers can quickly get upstairs to ticketing and security using airport escalators or elevators.
Drivers are encouraged to use whichever level has the least amount of congestion
Travelers also can find on-site parking by visiting abiaparking.com to reserve a spot and check for real-time parking that's available before their arrival.
Allegiant, Frontier flyers will meet at South Terminal
Travelers flying with Allegiant or Frontier will depart from The South Terminal while all other airlines will operate at the main Barbara Jordan Terminal. The South Terminal is located at 10000 Logistics Lane, near US 183 and Burleson Road.
If dropped off at the main terminal, passengers can use a shuttle bus, which picks up from the curb-side departure level, to get to the South Terminal.
Use self-service flight check-in kiosks
Inside the terminal and across from the airline ticket counters, there are several self-service flight check-in kiosks for travelers to print their boarding passes and bag tags.
Travelers can save time by checking in for their flight using their airlines' mobile app, which will produce a digital boarding pass. Select airlines also offer curbside check-in options for those who aren't as tech-savvy.
For more information on time-saving tips, visit austintexas.gov/airport.