Sunday, March 3, 2024

Passengers who underestimate how busy ILM can get risk missing their flights

Wilmington International Airport. File photo.

WILMINGTON — There was a time when a passenger could stroll into the Wilmington International Aiport a half-hour before a scheduled morning departure and catch their flight with no problem. Those days are probably over.

In recent years, the Wilmington International Airport (ILM) has made significant strides in adding flights (and is currently in the middle of an expansion project). While that means more options for passengers, it has brought with it an increased risk of passengers missing their flight when they don’t allow two hours before their departure (the current industry standard for domestic flights). That’s especially true during the airport’s busy morning hours.

According to Airport Director Julie Wilsey, ILM’s growth may have caught some customers off guard; Wilsey said customers might need to change their old habits to catch their flight, including early morning flights.

“With airport growth and added service to the community, comes the customer responsibility to provide enough time to make your scheduled flight,” Wilsey said.

While Wilsey said ILM does not track the number of passengers who miss flights, she said “generally passengers who miss flights are due to not giving themselves enough time at ILM.  If passengers arrive as suggested by TSA and the airlines (2 hours prior to flight departure), flights will not be missed.”

According to Wilsey, ILM has seen not just an increase in flights, but a significant increase in the capacity of aircraft flying through the airport. And, over the last two decades, security procedures added by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) have also increased the time it takes to get from check-in to boarding. On some busy mornings, the standard security checkpoint can take 35 to 40 minutes, Wilsey said.

Wilsey said ILM recommends that travels use the TSA’s precheck service to gain access to an expedited screening lane at the airport. The program costs $85 for five years and requires participants to attend a 10-minute, in-person meeting including a background check and fingerprints; in exchange, the TSA says it will allow ‘precheck’ passengers through screening without requiring them to remove shoes, belts, light jackets, liquids, or laptop computers.

Asked if the airport has added TSA personnel as ILM has grown, Wilsey said “the Federal hired TSA staffing is adequate to handle the current passenger volume throughout the day. There are peak times when the standard checkpoint lane is full.” She also noted that, while TSA agents are “our partners along with the airlines,” they are not ILM employees.

More information about security and travel tips for traveling through ILM can be found here.

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