Vermont's Burlington Airport Braces for Summer of Record Passengers

The airport and TSA are urging travelers to arrive two hours before their flights because of increased crowds

The nation’s airports are in the midst of what’s expected to be a record summer, with the Transportation Security Administration projecting 243-million passengers and crew members will pass through its security checkpoints between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

That’s 4-million more people than the same period last year, the TSA said.

And because of the spike, airports are asking travelers to arrive early for flights.

“Please practice ‘two hours before,’” said Gene Richards, the aviation director of Vermont’s Burlington International Airport. “We can’t guarantee that you’ll get on that plane if you don’t.”

Corey Thacker made sure to get to the Burlington Airport two hours before his flight to Wisconsin Monday, to check in and make it through security with ease.

“It definitely gets you through,” Thacker said of an early arrival. “Sometimes, you don’t know how the line’s going to be.”

Richards said the airport typically sees around 10 or 12-thousand departures each week. But this summer, BTV is bracing for record numbers: 16 thousand departures a week, or even 18 thousand, he said.

One of the factors driving Vermont’s increase is larger planes.

Burlington used to be served by primarily regional aircraft, Richards noted. Increasingly, though, the airlines are landing their own mainline jets here, especially for early-morning flights.

Some of those mainline jets can carry twice the number of passengers as the smaller regional carriers, Richards told reporters.

“The load factors that are put on TSA are abnormal,” Richards said. “Much different than what we’ve had in years past.”

The TSA’s also reminding people that summer months see more families traveling together, which can slow down lines.

And with the Fourth of July next week, the security administration’s asking you to not pack fireworks. Simple sparklers are considered fire hazards.

“Fireworks around this time of year are probably the most common hazard we have to confront,” said Bruce McDonald, the TSA’s federal security director for Vermont. “Even when it goes through this [scanning] machine—goes through your checked baggage—it’s not legal going through.”

McDonald added that extra workers are coming online to handle the uptick in travelers.

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