Passengers boarding Thanksgiving eve flights at local airports encounter heavy traffic, large crowds

The holiday hustle is in full swing across South Florida as travelers hoping to reach loved ones on Thanksgiving found getting to the airport to be a nightmare.

7News cameras captured a sea of red lights and vehicles crammed outside Terminal 2 at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, Wednesday night.

“Everything about this is just a real mess today,” said traveler Howard Harris.

“It was getting to the airport that was the tough part,” said traveler Ashley Culmer.

Drivers dropped off travelers anxious to make it to their gates on time.

“I booked my flight one hour ago,” said Harris.

Harris lives in South Florida. His sudden decision to make a mad dash led to a nearly hour-long wait in traffic, but he said it was all worth it to spend the holiday in Chicago with his family.

“I pulled a ‘let’s get out of here today,’ My wife said, ‘You’re crazy.’ I said, ‘I’m not crazy; I want to go home. I want to go home for Thanksgiving,’” he said.

AAA has predicted the U.S. will hit almost pre-pandemic levels with people traveling by car and by air this holiday season.

However, officials said, flying on Thanksgiving Day may be a preferable option for travelers who don’t want to take the risk of sitting in traffic.

“AAA recommends leaving after 8 p.m. if you’re going to leave today, or ideally, get up first thing tomorrow morning if leave on Thanksgiving Day itself before 11 a.m. Traffic will be lighter,” said AAA spokesperson Aixa Diaz.

As for those who chose to travel on Wednesday, they’re breathing a sigh of relief that they made it safely and will be able to enjoy time with their loved ones.

“I was nervous I wasn’t even going to make it, but I’m glad that here now,” said traveler Mason Evans. “I’m calm, I’m relaxed, but I wasn’t [earlier].”

“I’m happy that it’s over with, ’cause it was a bit hectic earlier today,” said Culmer.

Officials warn the parking decks at FLL and Miami International Airport will be full to capacity on Thursday.