Stuck at the Airport?

Five tips to survive the most wonderful travel time of the year

By Alyson Walls

Published December 17, 2018

Read Time: 3 mins


Being stuck at the airport has become the stuff of YouTube parodies and instant holiday radio hits.

During the next three weeks, airlines will offer about 600,000 total seats to and from Pittsburgh International Airport, with the busiest days being Monday (the day after the Steelers-Patriots game), followed by this Friday (Dec. 21) and Thursday (Dec. 20), respectively. Peak travel times at PIT are from 5 to 7 a.m. and 3 to 5 p.m., meaning that security lines are typically longer.

And while mechanical issues and weather delays are often inevitable north of Nashville in December, there are some simple ways to avoid missing your flight or running through the airport like husbands at the mall on Christmas Eve.

With the highest number of passengers traveling through PIT since 2007, airport officials, TSA and AAA will hold a joint news conference Tuesday at 11 a.m. on the airport’s ticketing level to offer important information and tips for holiday travelers.

In the meantime, here’s a handy list of five things you need to know to survive travel at this most wonderful time of the year.

  1. Arrive two hours early. It’s a general rule and all airports harp on it, but this time it’s really true. Unless you regularly jet from coast to coast like Kim and Kanye, or are lucky enough to be traveling solo with nothing but a pair of flip-flops and a dream, give yourself enough time to park, check bags, print boarding passes, get through security, find your gate, grab coffee, use the restroom, etc., just like the other 600,000 people who will be joining you at PIT through the holidays.
  2. Review prohibited items. Perhaps it should go without saying, but we’re going to say it anyway: Conduct a precise inventory of the whereabouts of all of your dangerous weapons. The most common excuse we hear about firearms, knives, swords, brass knuckles, tasers, ammo and other prohibited items left in bags at the checkpoint is “I forgot that was in there.” This strikes us as less than responsible, but we’ll leave the judgment to social media, and say again, please review prohibited items before packing your bag and coming to the airport.
  3. Check your flight status with your airline. This is another one that makes us sound like nagging parents, but it’s also true. Most airlines have their own apps and websites where you can sign up for real-time flight status updates. You can also find flight info on our website, It’s almost 2019, people. Let’s start putting those fancy phones to better use.
  4. Check local road conditions. The parkways around Pittsburgh. Need we say more? There’s always an accident, construction, presidential motorcade, mere raindrops or some other calamitous event to slow you from getting to the airport. (See tip No. 1, and plan ahead!) Road conditions are readily accessible at and @511PAPittsburgh on Twitter.
  5. 3-1-1. No, it’s not your long lost LinkedIn password. It’s the TSA’s rule about liquids. Liquids must be less than 3.4 ounces, in a 1 quart-size bag, for 1 person. So that venti latte you grabbed before getting in the security line, yeah, that’s gonna get tossed. But here’s a pro tip: EMPTY cups and water bottles can be taken through the checkpoint and refilled at any of our water bottle-filling stations in the Airside Terminal. It’s both green and travel-savvy.
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