Summer vacationers make Atlanta airport busier than ever

ATLANTA (AP) — As many as 7.9 million travelers are expected to pass through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport at its peak summer crunch next month, causing predictable summer delays at ticket counters and security lines.

Many infrequent travelers are still struggling to comply with the carry-on rules imposed last summer, and the resulting confusion may send security lines crawling well beyond the atrium at the world’s busiest airport over the next few weeks.

No one was surprised when a crush of vacationers joined business types waiting up to an hour to get through security checks at the airport on Friday.

‘‘It’s a Friday and it’s summer at the world’s busiest airport,’’ said Christopher White of the Transportation Security Administration, the agency responsible for security screening. ‘‘Atlanta will be busy all summer. We do expect lines.’’

Traffic at Hartsfield-Jackson between January and April of 2007 jumped to 27,598,319 — an increase of more than half a million over last year.

The busiest travel season is still ahead.

‘‘We haven’t hit our peak (travel season) yet,’’ said airport spokesman Herschel Grangent. ‘‘That’s probably not for another couple of weeks.’’

Records show the number of people passing through the airport typically peaks in July. Those navigating the airport Friday said June is bad enough.

John Poe of Madison, Miss., glanced at his watch just before leaving the line to pass through the metal detectors at a security check point.

How long had he waited?

‘‘Too long,’’ an unidentified passenger behind him blurted out.

‘‘Fifty-five minutes,’’ Poe said.

Smart travelers plan ahead to avoid missing flights.

Pat Cahill of Chicago and John Kautzer of St. Louis heard news reports Friday morning of the increased wait times and showed up early. They were in line at 2:45 p.m. for a 5 p.m. flight.

By the time they arrived, security had opened more lines and the wait had dwindled to about 20 minutes.

‘‘If you don’t give yourself at least an hour, you are in the danger zone,’’ Cahill said. Long lines can partly be attributed to fliers not packing properly, Grangent said. Since last summer, the watchword at the airport is the 3-1-1 rule.

Carry-on bags containing personal items, such as shampoo, can be in containers no larger than 3 ounces, which must be in a 1-quart plastic bag which can be resealed. Each passenger can only have one bag.

Any violations of the rule, and the security officers must unseal the bag, inspect the contents and throw away items outside the limits. ——— Information from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, www.ajc.com