Bay Area airports bustling amid Christmas travel rush

With days to go before Christmas, huge lines of people snaked out the door Friday morning at Oakland International Airport on the busiest travel day before the long weekend holiday. 

The line to check bags was a 40-minute wait before dawn just to get inside the building.

The line to get past security was yet another wait.

Oakland airport officials said they expected at least 500,000 to fly this holiday season through New Year's. Oakland is seeing a 3% increase in travel compared to last year, officials said. 

Michonne Omo of Oakland said she didn't realize the lines would be so long at 5 a.m. 

"I will take the lines as long as I get out and get there before Christmas" she said.

She said she'd rather do that than fly out on Christmas Day.

"So, this is somewhat of an improvement," she said.

The airport is expected to be the busiest between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., and then again between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.

At San Francisco International Airport, Friday was also expected to be the busiest travel day of the holiday season. Officials said an estimated 2.5 million people will pass through during the holiday travel period from Dec. 15 through Dec. 31. 

Lines at several security checkpoints were much longer than the seven minutes that were being displayed on the monitor.

"It has been long and hectic," said passenger Reuben Flores. "The lines are really long, the airport lines are moving slow. It feels like they are understaffed," Flores said.

Packed suitcases at Oakland International Airport. 

Other SFO travelers took it all in stride and maintained a positive attitude. 

Thomas Jackson was supposed to fly to Tennessee this morning, but he was left at the airport due to a problem with his flight. We asked why he seemed so cool, calm and collected. 

"You just sit back and wait and be patient," said Jackson. 

Doug Yakel, a spokesperson for SFO, said about 15% of flights were experiencing some delays as of midday Friday. 

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"We are also seeing some weather issues in some parts of the country. We are seeing some delays to Southern California and Phoenix because of rain and also Texas and Florida as well due to some weather conditions there," Yakel said. 

To help the lines move more quickly, the TSA reminds travelers not to pack wrapped gifts; they may have to be unwrapped for security. 

Passengers wait in line at the Oakland International Airport ahead of the long Christmas weekend. Dec. 22, 2023 

A TSA agents works at Oakland International Airport ahead of the long Christmas weekend. Dec. 22, 2023