Rain and fog in the East caused delays for holiday travelers heading home today after the long Thanksgiving weekend, threatening to cause bottlenecks elsewhere.
Security line waiting times at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport steadily improved this morning, but travelers there were expected to face growing problems later because of the weather-caused delays elsewhere, AirTran spokesman Dave Hirschman said.
"The bad news is that the Northeast has really been slammed today," he said. The delay to get an AirTran flight out of Philadelphia at midmorning was 68 minutes, New York's LaGuardia three hours, and Newark 76 minutes, he said.
Departure delays in the Northeast will mean late arrivals at Hartsfield-Jackson, he said. Travelers arriving in Atlanta may find that their connecting flights have already left, and it will be harder for them to catch later flights since most departing planes are 80 percent full.
"This is an extremely busy flying day, especially in the Northeast," Hirschman said. "When they fall behind early, it's nearly impossible to catch up as the day goes on. These delays are going to ripple throughout the network."
Arrivals at LaGuardia also were delayed up to three hours, said Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Delays at the metro area's Newark Liberty Airport averaged one hour and 37 minutes but New York's Kennedy International was not affected, Coleman said.
"We're delighted to see the rain," Hirschman said of the drought-stricken Southeast. "But it sure would have been great if we'd had one more day of drought."
Delta Air Lines also expected delays because of the poor weather in the Northeast, spokeswoman Susan Elliott said today.
However, Boston's Logan International Airport had no major delays in arrivals or departures today morning, according to its Web site.
Things were better in the Midwest and West.
Detroit Metropolitan Airport spokesman Mike Conway said good weather helped keep things moving despite heavier than normal passenger volume.
"Some of our customers are inconvenienced because of delays at other airports, but for the most part we've got a lot of runway capacity here, plenty of gates, plenty of parking," he said this morning. "Throw good visibility on top of it, it adds up to a good Thanksgiving weekend."
At O'Hare International Airport, minor delays were reported this morning because of fog. About 237,000 passengers were expected to travel through the nation's second-busiest airport today.
Some delays also were reported across Chicago at Midway Airport, mostly because of fog and low visibility at the airports farther east. About 73,000 travelers were expected at Midway today.
On Sunday, rain and fog delayed some incoming flights more than two hours in Atlanta. The Federal Aviation Administration reported Sunday that flights were delayed as much as two hours at Washington-area airports because of weather and heavy air traffic.
Officials in Los Angeles said arriving planes experienced delays of up to 15 minutes. They expected 1.85 million passengers to travel through the city's main airport over the 10-day Thanksgiving travel period beginning Nov. 16 and ending Sunday.
AAA said its surveys indicated a record 38.7 million U.S. residents were likely to travel 50 miles or more for the holiday period of Wednesday through Sunday, up about 1.5 percent from last year. About 4.7 million were expected to fly, and about 31.2 million travelers were likely to drive in spite of rising gasoline prices, AAA said last week.
Holiday travelers encounter busy airports