Louisville airport passengers must arrive earlier for SDF flights

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Louisville jet-setters might want to start getting to the airport earlier than they should.

Passenger traffic is on the rise at Muhammad Ali International Airport in Louisville, leading to fuller parking lots, more congested check-ins and twisty security lines.

Airport officials have been spreading the message on social media since March, asking travelers to arrive 1 hour and 45 minutes before their plane departs.

For long-time local residents, this may seem like a stretch to the airport, where they can often easily pass through baggage screening and security.

People lined up through security at Muhammad Ali International Airport in Louisville on Friday afternoon.  April 29, 2022

But as spring break travel has warmed up, coupled with the continued rebound in pandemic passenger declines, the airport is seeing a fuller terminal. And that’s not even counting the uptick caused by people coming and going for the Kentucky Derby.

“We kind of all came to an agreement that we need to be more intentional in recommending people get here a little earlier than usual,” said Anthony Gilmer, director of marketing and product development. air services for the Louisville Regional Airport Authority. .

“I feel like a lot of Louisvillians have somehow taken pride over the years in being able to show up at the airport 30 or 40 minutes before your flight and do whatever you need to do and get your flight done. “

He said the airport does not keep track of the number of missed flights. But in the first three months of 2022, there were about 406,000 scheduled passengers departing from Louisville, double the nearly 202,000 from the same period last year.

And while the number follows 2019’s tally of 451,000, Gilmer said some daily traffic volume exceeds that of 2019, the airport’s busiest ever. And with the airport recently adding two new airlines and offering the most non-stop destinations in its history, airport officials anticipate more fliers.

Contributing to new arrival notice, Gilmer said, is a pandemic-era trend of a more bundled departure schedule with larger planes that increases traffic spikes.

“We’re still a really easy, convenient, friendly airport and all of those things,” he said. “But it’s not the quiet place it was every day.”

A layover at Muhammad Ali Airport in Louisville

While working on this story, this Courier Journal reporter flew out of town to see his family on a recent Thursday, knowing that the airport advised the one hour and 45 minute delay.

Thinking back to my previous experiences at the airport, I was dropped off 65 minutes before my midday flight departed and thought that would be enough. I barely made my flight.

Checking my bag and printing out a boarding pass took a few minutes. I spent most of my time waiting in a security line that stretched from the Transportation Security Administration checkpoint to the Spirit Airlines counter at the front of the terminal – the longest I have ever seen.

A TSA employee eventually moved the line to lay in a quiet side hallway. As those around me commented on the length of the line, some calling out their flight information with strained faces, an airport employee came to the back of the line to ask about the passengers flights leaving in the next 30 to 40 minutes.

People lined up through security at Muhammad Ali International Airport in Louisville on Friday afternoon.  April 29, 2022

He pulled a few travelers forward, though I didn’t cross the line. Although the line continued to move, there was plenty of ground to cover, including the roped-off line outside the security checkpoint (featuring a number of TSA “hiring in progress” signs).

A brisk walk brought me to my gate five minutes before takeoff. I expected the doors of the plane to be closed already, but to my relief the plane was late to board and I made it.

A man who was in the same TSA line was last seen running towards her door.

“Even when I started here, it would have taken Derby for that line to come down the hallway and wrap around stores and things like that,” Gilmer said. “But that’s something we see more of these days.”

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Gilmer said the rope-queuing area in front of the security checkpoint is “unfortunately deceptive” because Louisville Airport doesn’t have as many compared to similar-sized airports, resulting in delays. overflows.

“Optically it always looks worse than it actually is,” he said.

On a more recent Friday at the airport, the cordoned-off queuing section had been widened to bring travelers closer together while waiting to pass through security, instead of a longer, single-file line stretching towards the escalators.

In that line were Conisha Mapp and her daughter Laila, who arrived at the airport 90 minutes before their flight to Florida for a cheerleading competition.

“We flew this time last year, and even with COVID it wasn’t that slow or the line that long,” said Louisville resident Mapp.

She said 90 minutes to two hours before departure never cheated on her at the Louisville airport.

“You never know what might happen,” she said.

TSA hires workers for Louisville airport

When asked if staffing issues have contributed to lines getting longer, Gilmer spoke broadly, saying airports across the country are able to operate but are hiring and would like to have more workers.

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Regional TSA spokesperson Mark Howell said the TSA is offering a login bonus up to $2,000 in Louisville.

“With just about everyone else, we’re hiring,” Howell said. “We are seeing the (passenger) volume coming back and quite quickly.”

TSA employees are working overtime to accommodate airport needs, but Howell noted that’s not a long-term solution. He foresees a continued need for hiring as the number of passengers increases.

“There are times of the day when even when all lanes are open and fully equipped, we are going to reduce wait times with the volume of passengers we pass through,” he said.

In addition to travelers giving themselves plenty of time to park, check baggage and clear security, Howell reminded passengers find out what is allowed in hand luggage and pack accordingly, as prohibited items slow down the screening process for everyone.

Gilmer acknowledged that the new passenger time recommendation is padded and most of the time travelers won’t need all that time, especially on typically slower days (Tuesday and Wednesday) and when avoiding peak hours (early morning and early morning). mid-afternoon).

Still, cutting it close and madly dashing through the terminal isn’t the best way to fly.

“It puts more pressure on the passenger than on the system as a whole,” Gilmer said. “But it definitely puts a bit more pressure on everyone they interact with along the way.”

Journalist Matthew Glowicki can be reached at [email protected], 502-582-4000 or on Twitter @mattglo.

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