Thunder Bay airport expects busiest Christmas season ever

Airport head urges passengers to arrive early and be prepared for security lineups

The holidays cap off a record-breaking year for passenger traffic

The Thunder Bay airport is gearing up for one of its busiest travel periods.

The airport is already on track for the busiest year in its history and CEO Scott McFadden said he expects that trend to continue over the coming days — and that means travellers should be prepared to wait.

Scott McFadden, president and CEO of Thunder Bay International Airports Authority said the busiest time of year for the airport is August, but the holidays are a significant peak period (Nicole Ireland/CBC)

"First and foremost, especially if there's any significant weather, get here early," he said.

"We do find that people can be a little bit stressed out, especially infrequent travellers."

Because of federal budget cuts, the airport has not been able to expand the security staff to keep pace with the growing passenger volume, McFadden added. As a result, travellers could face longer waits in the pre-boarding security lineup.

"The higher — much higher — than anticipated growth that we're experiencing and the lack of ... budget for expansion of the security services ... are definitely having a negative impact on the airport," he said.

McFadden noted there are a few factors that will make the airport busier than ever this holiday season: 

  • The airport has broken passenger traffic records for the past few years, and is on track to do it again this year. About 750,000 passengers were expected to pass through in 2012, that number is closer to 765,000. 
  • Many people flying during the holidays aren't frequent travellers, so "perhaps [they’re] not fully confident about security requirements ... [which] can create some delays specifically through the pre-board security [procedures]."

To help security lines move faster, make sure prohibited items — such as fluids — are not packed in carry-on luggage, McFadden said.

Sometimes security needs to see what's inside wrapped presents, so people should be prepared for that, he added. 

McFadden recommends that holiday travellers visit the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority website to check what they can and cannot bring on the plane in their carry-on luggage at