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Airport travelers experience long lines as Formula One visitors depart Austin

Lauren Girgis
Austin American-Statesman

Long security lines stretched throughout the departure concourse at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on Monday, as thousands of Formula One fans headed home after a sun-dappled weekend at Circuit of the Americas. 

"Holy sh-t," one traveler exclaimed while walking through the entrance. 

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport reported heavy traffic on Sunday and Monday. Sunday's confirmed total was 29,251 passengers, making it the airport's 10th busiest day ever, said Bryce Dubee, ABIA spokesperson.

Monday's projections are showing 36,146, which would be the airport's busiest day ever. However, that may still change up or down slightly, Dubee said.

"That being said, our current record for busiest ever is Nov. 4, 2019, the Monday after F1 2019, with 31,934 passengers," he said. "So I'm confident that (this Monday's) projections will at least hold up as the new single-day record."

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Passengers experienced long lines at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on Monday, the day after the Formula One U.S. Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas.

Anticipating the delays, the airport recommended that travelers arrive at the airport three hours early if taking a domestic flight and three-and-a-half hours early if traveling internationally. Passengers also were advised to leave additional time if they need to return rental cars and check their bags. 

Matthew McDevitt traveled from San Diego for the U.S. Grand Prix. To avoid the crowded Austin-Bergstrom, McDevitt flew in to Killeen and took an Uber to Austin. He originally planned to drive back to Killeen for his flight back to San Diego, but woke up on Monday morning to find the flight was canceled. 

"I waited for (more than) two hours on customer service with American Airlines, and then they finally switched us to a flight out of Austin to Dallas," McDevitt said.

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He was scheduled to take a connecting flight from Dallas to San Diego, but his flight from Austin was delayed, which will force him to miss his connecting flight. 

"Now we're in another long line to wait to talk to someone. I'm pretty sure I'm going to go up there and be like ... 'Just get us to the West Coast!'"

McDevitt said despite the delays, getting to Austin-Bergstrom was easy, and airport staff had been helpful.

"It is what it is. Can't get too wrapped up in it, or else you'll drive yourself insane," McDevitt said. 

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For several years, the airport’s busiest time annually has been the period after the Austin City Limits Music Festival and the Formula One U.S. Grand Prix, rather than November and December holidays. 

For many passengers, the issues were only compounded by issues with getting from the race track back to where they were staying. 

Monica Brito, who traveled in from Virginia, said she didn't have trouble at the races on Friday and Saturday. 

"On Day 3, we watched a race, we finished ... by the time we got to the line for the buses, to me it looked like there were easily 10,000-plus people in line," Brito said. "We decided it would be easier to take the three-mile walk." 

Brito tried to get TSA pre-check to avoid the lines, but it wasn't processed in time to be added to her boarding pass. She waited in the security line for about half an hour, but said she wasn't too worried about missing her flight as she arrived three hours ahead of time.

American-Statesman staff writer Lori Hawkins contributed to this report.