MIAMI (CBS) – As the clock kicks down toward Christmas, Miami and Ft. Lauderdale’s airports are gearing up for the annual crush of holiday travelers.

Thousands upon thousands will be catching flights into and out of Miami International Airport and Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport. With the massive increase in the number of people passing through the terminals, get ready for delays at security screening checkpoints.

According to the AAA motorist’s club, nationwide holiday air travel is expected to be nearly three percent more this year than last year so pack your patience along with those holiday gifts.

At Miami International Airport, spokesman Greg Chin said they are anticipating passenger counts will surpass 100-thousand people per day except for Christmas day itself. On Sunday, January 2, Chin said they could see or exceed the 120-thousand passenger mark. In total, over the 18 holiday travel period, from December 21st through January 7th, they are projecting that nearly two million passengers will pass through their door, a three percent increase over 2009.

“A little bit congested, but yeah, I thought it would be worse,” said traveler Kira Bokalders.

The Air Transport Association of America (ATA) says the busiest days for air travel will be Dec. 21-23, Dec. 26-30, and Jan. 2 and 3, when average load factors on domestic flights may approach 90 percent.

More than half a million travelers are expected to fly in and out of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport during the holiday period which runs from Wednesday, December 22, through Tuesday, December 28. Airport officials said they will average around 72,000 passengers a day and Sunday will be their peak travel day this year. These numbers represent approximately a 5 percent increase in passenger travel over the same period last year.

“It is hectic,” said traveler Justin Lusk. “I missed my flight because of the traffic and the rental car service that I had. So we’ve been having a little bit of trouble with the lines, but everything is going smoothly for me now.”

Parking is expected to peak on Christmas day at Ft. Lauderdale’s airport with as many as 12,000 vehicles parked throughout the airport. Travelers who opt not park at an off-site lot are urged to allow extra time to be directed to available parking in and around the airport.

Be warned: if you plan to park the car curbside “just for a second” to run in and check on an arriving passenger, expect to see a tow truck hitching up your car.


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