AAA Carolinas is projecting a 1.6% increase in air travel over the course of the Memorial Day weekend, but officials at Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport said they are ready for the traffic.
As part of its Wingspan project, GSP recently installed a new Transportation Security Administration centralized screening checkpoint that moves passengers from both concourses though one checkpoint. Rosylin Weston, vice-president of communications for GSP, said amid news of extended passenger lines at checkpoints across the country, getting the new centralized checkpoint operational before the holiday weekend was a priority.
“All of the things that have come up lately with TSA and the long lines, it seems like they have focused on fixing that, but we have already tried to fix that on our end,” Weston said.
She said the checkpoint was fully operational by Wednesday and passenger wait times were not affected by the new procedure.
“The longest wait time on Wednesday morning with the new centralized screening checkpoint was about 16 minutes, but most passengers were able to get through in less than five minutes,” Weston said.
At Columbia Metropolitan Airport, Dan Martin, executive director, said checkpoint wait times are “measured in minutes, not hours.”
“You’re looking at generally much less than a 15-minute wait at a TSA checkpoint here,” Martin said.
Officials at Charleston International Airport are also expecting a jump in passengers over the weekend. Last year, TSA screened about 5,300 passengers each day of the holiday weekend and airport officials are anticipating between 6,400 and 7,200 each day this weekend.
“Charleston has grown and along with it the airport has grown to meet the travel needs of our passengers,” Paul G. Campbell Jr., executive director and CEO of the Charleston County Aviation Authority, said in a release. “Don’t take the chance of missing your flight by arriving 30 minutes before takeoff. Get here early, get through security so you can relax at your gate and get something to eat or drink without rushing, and so you have a great travel experience.”
According to media reports, TSA has faced backlash over longer lines that have forced some passengers to miss flights at larger airports such as Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. American Airlines said 4,000 passengers have missed flights from that airport since February.
TSA officials have cited budget cuts for the shortage in screeners during high travel times. TSA spokesman Mike England said the agency has received approval to hire additional workers by June 15 and reallocate funds for additional overtime.
In 2015, GSP had more than 1.9 million passengers come though the terminal, a 2.3% increase over 2014. AAA Carolinas said it estimates more than 33,000 South Carolinians will fly over the holiday weekend while more than 84,000 in North Carolina will travel by air. AAA Carolinas said it also expects road travel to increase by 2.1% over last year, as gas prices in North and South Carolina are 37 cents lower, by average, than a year ago.
“Carolinians are eagerly awaiting the start of summer and are ready to travel thanks to the lowest Memorial Day gas prices in a decade,” said Dave Parsons, AAA Carolinas president and CEO, in a statement. “We urge drivers to stay safe on the roadways this weekend and to always remember to disconnect and drive.”
Weston said another issue GSP officials are watching for is the potential need for overflow parking. She said the airport has already identified where it will direct passengers, if overflow parking is necessary.
“We are always prepared for our passengers, so there aren’t any other major things to plan for besides the centralized screening checkpoint, and that was big,” Weston said.
Columbia Regional Business Report’s Melinda Waldrop and Charleston Regional Business Journal’s Liz Segrist contributed to this story.
Reach Matthew Clark at 864-235-5677, ext. 107, or @matthewclark76 on Twitter.