Staff and wire reports

Airports across Pennsylvania will be busier than busier than pandemic-normal this Thanksgiving.

While traffic has been down about 30 percent this year at Philadelphia International Airport, officials expect 400,000 outbound passengers from Nov. 19 to Nov. 30. Here’s what to keep in mind, from the moment you leave your door until you arrive at your gate.

When to arriveRegardless of which airport you’re going to, get their early. PHL recommends arriving at least three hours before your boarding time. Harrisburg officials say travelers should be in the terminal two hours before flying if checking a bag, 90 minutes early if not checking a bag at the gate.

Sanford Gips, a frequent traveler who lives in Moorestown, allows an hour in his travel schedule just to find parking at PHL. “It’s really a competition now for parking spaces,” he said.

He brings only carry-on luggage, and has TSA PreCheck. Otherwise, “If you’re checking bags, you have to be there 3 1/2 hours beforehand,” Gips said.

At Harrisburg, passengers are encouraged to check online with the airline’s app or website 24 hours before, know bag weight and size limits and pay any bag fees in advance.

Airport mask rulesMasks are still required, regardless of vaccination status. Under federal mandates, passengers — aged 2 and older — must wear masks at airports, security checkpoints, and onboard airplanes until Jan. 18, 2022. Those same rules apply to all forms of public transportation, including buses and trains.

Need to grab a bite? The CDC says masks may be removed “for brief periods of time” when travelers are eating, drinking, or taking medication.

Vaccination and testing

If you’re flying abroad, make sure to check your destination’s entry requirements, such as proof of vaccination and negative test results for COVID-19.

For example, American Airlines, which carries the most passenger traffic at PHL, directs travelers to the website Sherpa, which has a search tool for travel restrictions all over the world. Also, it’s worth checking to see whether your airline uses an app — such as VeriFLY — to help manage COVID-related requirements before boarding.

PHL and Jefferson Health have also partnered to offer a COVID-19 testing site at the airport for passengers.

TSA rules

The Transportation Security Administration says you can bring some Thanksgiving favorites through checkpoints, namely solid food items such as baked goods and meats, whether cooked, fresh, or frozen. Ice or ice packs must be completely frozen to be allowed through security.

Generally, anything that’s liquid — that goes for gravy and cranberry sauce — and larger than 3.4 ounces should go in a checked bag, though TSA is continuing to allow one container of hand sanitizer, up to 12 ounces, in carry-on baggage.

Bear in mind that at PHL, the Terminal C security checkpoint is only for passengers with TSA PreCheck.

“The Terminal B checkpoint is the closest for passengers departing from Terminal C without PreCheck,” said airport spokesperson Heather Redfern.

What if flight is delayed?Since the summer, passengers have dealt with frustrating spates of cancellations and delays on several major airlines because of staffing shortages and bad weather.

The good news is that air carriers have trimmed schedules, which allows more flexibility in their systems, and some, such as American and Southwest, are offering new incentives to employees to be available during the holiday travel season.

“All of this will make a big difference during the holidays, to the benefit of travelers,” said Charles Leocha, president of the consumer advocacy group Travelers United.

Even so, you “should be prepared for the possibility that there may be delays,” Leocha said. “If anything goes wrong during this period, we’re going to see it quickly.”

His advice: Bring snacks with you, and keep in your carry-on bag any items you’d need that day or evening, such as medication, or extra diapers if you’re traveling with young children. Leocha also recommends traveling with a multi-plug extension cord, which comes in handy at the airport and at hotels.

As a final reminder, he said, “Bring your sense of humor.”

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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