Houston Airports preparing for millions to travel during Thanksgiving week

The Thanksgiving travel period begins November 17 and ends November 29 with November 20, 23, and 27 being the busiest air travel days in Houston. Hobby is expected to serve more than 560,000 travelers and Bush more than 1.7 million. 


Rick Bowmer / Associated Press
Air travel for Texans is expected to be up 77% from last year over the holiday weekend.

Houston Airports are expected to have an estimated 2.3 million travelers pass through William P. Hobby and Bush Intercontinental Airport this week, a 3% increase from the same period from the same period in 2019 and a 9% increase from 2021.

The Thanksgiving travel period began November 17 and ends November 29 with November 20, 23, and 27 being the busiest air travel days in Houston. Hobby is expected to serve more than 560,000 travelers and Bush more than 1.7 million.

To help travelers prepare for the busy holiday season, Houston Airports are encouraging travelers to plan and prepare as more people are flying this holiday season, continued construction at Bush Intercontinental, and more travelers expected to be on Houston roads.

Sergeant Tracy Hicks is with the Auto Theft and Grand Unit at the Houston Police Department. He said with this week being one of the busiest times of the year, auto theft is very high.

"What we want to do is remind people, when you're coming into the airport, is to not leave stuff in your car," he said.

Hicks said one way travelers can avoid leaving items in their cars is to pack lightly.

"The big thing is, when people travel here to the airport, they [may] have left they're work laptop and you know they're ‘oh, I'm not going to take this with me so I'm going to leave it in the car'," he said.

Besides electronics, Hicks said weapons like guns are often left in vehicles at the airports.

"A big thing is weapons," he said. "A lot of times people are used to traveling over land and might have their gun or something in their bag and not think about it when they get here."

Hicks said the worst thing someone can do with their gun is to leave it in their car. He said if someone realizes they have their gun on them or any other items that can't be properly stored – he suggests calling someone.

"Honestly, I would call a friend or someone to take custody of [those] things," he said.

HPD will have extra officers on duty to monitor parking lots and garages, but travelers should be aware of parking in areas that are not being monitored by airport security or HPD.

TSA has been working with airports to put more workers in place to accommodate busy flight schedules. Patricia Mancha is the spokesperson for TSA in Texas and says they're trying to prepare passengers for the busy week, especially passengers who haven't flown in years.

"We expect to see an increase in travelers, people who have not traveled in a while and maybe have forgotten some of the rules and regulations when it comes to coming to the airport – their luggage etc.," Mancha said.

Mancha said the most important things for people to remember is, travelers should arrive at the airport early – two hours for domestic flights and three hours for international flights, know what airport and airline you’re traveling out of, and bring a government issued ID.

Mancha said passengers who aren’t prepared to go through security checks cause the biggest delays.

"People don't have their IDs, they don't have their flight information, they have to remove lots of items on their clothing, so if you're going to travel, wear shoes that [can] easily come off.”

TSA said they're expecting a lot of passengers to travel with Thanksgiving leftovers and they should educate themselves on what food items they're allowed to travel with and the correct way to store their items. Passengers are encouraged to plan ahead if they’re traveling with food to avoid having items thrown away or even fines.

"You can bring anything as long as it's not a liquid in your carry-on luggage, and a liquid is defined as if you can spill it, spread, pour it, or pump it, it's limited to 3.4 oz," said Mancha.

Travelers are allowed to bring candy, pies, stuffing or dressing, and instant potatoes in their carry-on. Items such as canned goods, water bottles, liquor, and wrapped presents would go in a checked bag.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection is advising airline passengers to check their food items if they're traveling in and out of the country. Customs officials said the holiday season is when they find the most prohibited food items in passenger luggage. Pork is a popular item passengers tend to travel with from other countries, things like Tamales and Ham.

Ashlee Willett is an Agriculture Specialist and a K-9 handler with the US Customs and Border Protection and says they're trying to prevent pests and diseases from entering the US.

"Certain fruits have certain pests that they like to feed on and also meat, certain meats from other countries, that animal is prone to diseases."

Willett said before leaving and entering the US passengers should double check their luggage to make sure they are allowed to travel with proper food items.

"The key thing is to know what's in your luggage," she said. "If Cody sniffs out something that's prohibited, and you don't know it's in there, you can be the one paying the fine – which could be sometimes up to $500."

Reginald Moore is also an Agriculture Specialist and said a lot of travelers miss certain foods from their home country.

“Older travelers tend to get upset because it’s near and dear to their heart, they probably haven’t been home to their land in 20 to 30 years.”

Other items such as seeds and citrus from other countries are prohibited. Passengers can go to the US Customs and Border Protection website to find out what items they are allowed to bring from other countries.

Ashley Brown

Ashley Brown


Ashley Brown is a news reporter at Houston Public Media, News 88.7. She covers a range of topics, primarily focusing on Houston City Hall. Before moving back to Houston in 2022, she worked at WHQR Public Radio in Wilmington, NC where she covered city and county government, homelessness and community...

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