MIAMI – Although it lost its ranking as the world’s busiest airport earlier this year, it seems that Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International (ATL) is in high gear to retake the title.
According to an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, more than 1.5 million people have passed through security checkpoints on some days this year. Yes, that is down from the peak numbers of some 2.5 million per day in years past, but it is more than eight times the number of a year ago.
Long waits dominated Monday as lines of passengers stretched through the domestic terminal atrium and down the side hallways.
Long Lines at Security
The AJC reports that security line waits hit 40 minutes, and equally long delays were seen at baggage carousels and check-in counters. “It’s just volume, pure volume,” said ATL interim general manager Balram Bheodari.
The newspaper looked at who is traveling and it reveals that business travel is still down from pre-pandemic levels. However, people, who have been quarantined for a year but are now vaccinated, are eager to get out of town for a vacation and to visit family and friends.
Southwest Airlines (WN) was experiencing especially difficult delays on Monday. Its lines were long with a crowd of travelers waiting outside for curbside check-in.
The AJC says that WN is fully staffed at ATL with more than 600 workers. The airline’s leadership team “is aware of (Monday) morning’s issues and remains committed to meeting the demands of the peak travel times as the airline welcomes back additional customers this summer.”
At many locations around the airport, airline and airport officials said there is a labor crunch. “The labor shortage — it’s affecting every industry,” Bheodari said in the AJC article.
Delta Air Lines Revs Up
Delta Air Lines has also requested its employees to go above and beyond due to a shortage of workers. This week, it asked its corporate headquarters staff to clean and man its lounges at ATL. In a memo, DL looked for volunteers to help with cleaning, wiping tables, running food, and restocking food buffets.
Delta CEO Ed Bastian said during a CNN interview last week that his biggest worry was having enough workers “not just of our company — because we have our employees there — but the service contractors. We have been down for about a year now. As you start to turn this big machine on, it takes some time. It’s going to be a little creaky for a while, to go from load factors of 40 to 50% to 80 to 90% almost overnight.”
The carrier was keeping middle seats on its planes open to enable a degree of social distancing. But this month, DL began to book those seats.
Passengers are also experiencing transportation difficulties when arriving at their destinations, the AJC says. The shortage of rental cars has driven up the daily price of a car to US$300 in some locations at peak periods, including in ATL.
The reason, of course, is that during the pandemic, car rental companies had to sell off their inventories to keep the cash flowing. Now, a global semiconductor shortage has made it hard for auto manufacturers to catch up, prompting some travelers to turn to alternatives like U-Haul trucks, according to news reports.
Featured image: An American Airlines Airbus in Retro Allegheny Airlines livery touches down at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Photo: John Huston/Airways