Pack some patience for a visit to Orlando International Airport this holiday season.
Weather delays, impatient travelers, and increased traffic combine to test everyone’s tolerance this time of year. Orlando’s airport, known as MCO, is expecting its busiest travel season ever. The airport is the second most active in Florida and ranks No. 14 in the United States.
Nearly 3 million travelers will make an arrival or departure from MCO between Nov. 16 and Jan. 6. The busiest travel day is Wednesday, Dec. 28 with 142,020 passengers expected, while Christmas Day is one of the best days to travel with 132,801 travelers, who will fly on the holiday.
Cars are parking along the shoulders of State Road 436, State Road 528 and Cargo Road entrances to the airport while waiting to pick up arrivals, despite numerous “Emergency Stopping Only” signs.
“Traffic in and out of the airport does intensify during peak travel periods and we’re encouraging people to wait in the free cell parking lots,” said Carolyn Fennell, airport spokeswoman. “Parking along the entrance roads is dangerous and not a safe way to enter the airport.”
Sergeant Wanda Ford, a spokesperson for the Orlando Police Department, said officers have not ticketed motorists parked along the shoulders of the road this year but are instructing them to park in one of the two free cell lots on the north and south ends of the airport.
To ease congestion, the airport rolled out a new mobile app that gives security wait times, flight status and notifications and also offers a feature to help people remember their parking spots. Ambassadors are roaming the airport to give directions and improve customer service.
“With an expected 8 percent increase in passenger traffic, this will be our busiest holiday travel season in history,” says Phil Brown, executive director of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, which oversees the airport’s operations.
Travelers are advised to arrive at the airport early enough to locate a parking space and allow for two hours inside the terminal for ticketing and security checks for domestic travel and three hours for international flights.