Thanksgiving brings thousands to Ohio airports

COLUMBUS, Ohio – John Glenn Columbus International Airport (CMH) welcomes thousands of travelers each day for the Thanksgiving holiday.

what you need to know

  • Experts recommend that you arrive 90 minutes earlier for domestic flights and 2 hours earlier for international flights
  • TSA has staff to assist travelers with disabilities
  • TSA screens between 11,000 and 17,000 passengers every day
  • As you pack, visit the TSA website to check the items you are allowed and not allowed to bring

Airport officials say there are over 55,000 scheduled seats for departing airlines for Thanksgiving trips — numbers that are at pre-pandemic levels. Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) reports passenger traffic for Thanksgiving travel week at 95% of 2019 levels.

Josh Kermisch and his family bought a recreational cehivle to travel during the pandemic, but are now ready to fly again and have planned accordingly.

“We’re a family of four, so it’s a production,” Kermisch said. “It starts with packing, which was probably two days ago, and then I’m working in New York City, so I flew in last night and now I’m flying back to Minnesota.”

TSA said it screens around two million people across the country on an average day, but sees around 2.9 million on public holidays.

With many people having not traveled for a while, one of the biggest warnings from security forces is not to carry guns. The TSA in Columbus has already seen 36 weapons at security checkpoints. Neither case was intended to cause harm, but TSA wants to remind people to put their guns in their checked bags.

If you or a loved one have a disability, you can visit the TSA website and go to TSA Cares or call ahead to have someone meet you at the checkpoint to assist you. TSA is grappling with staffing issues, but federal security said there is a plan in place for the holiday.

“There are some hiring challenges that most organizations have right now, but because of some of those challenges, we’re being reinforced right now by what we call the National Deployment Force,” said Don Barker, the federal security director for Ohio. “I have screeners from other parts of the country who are actually here for this holiday season and the next to help us deal with the volume that we have through Columbus.”

CMH officials suggest following the Kermisch family’s lead and starting packing early. They also advise travelers to arrive 90 minutes early for domestic flights and two hours early for international flights.

With Thanksgiving weekend underway, Columbus Regional Airport Authority’s Sarah McQuaide said it’s the perfect time to start preparing for your next trip.

“We’re talking about Thanksgiving travel today, but now is actually a great time to book your winter vacation somewhere warm,” McQuaide said. “Even your spring or summer destinations, we currently have almost 50 non-stop destinations to choose from, which is more than before the pandemic.”

The Kermisch family took McQuaide’s advice and plans to take a cruise to the Caribbean next winter, but for now they plan to eat a 14-hour-smoked turkey with their family and watch the Buckeyes beat the team up north.

“We are Buckeyes through and through and will be Bucks,” said Kermisch. “We eat a lot of appetizers, wings and drink some beer.”

If you are traveling this holiday season, please find updated information from CMH here and TSA guidelines here.