Austin’s airport certainly looks a lot different from a normal day. There’s additional security, several car service drivers, and a bunch of people in yellow shirts speaking a bunch of different languages.
But it’s not the insane crush many expected for Formula 1.
Despite the anticipated arrival of 18,000 visitors today, “things seem to be running fairly smoothly,” says Jim Halbrook with Austin Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA). “We’ve got customer service representatives throughout the terminal helping people find their way, helping people find their ground transportation."
Halbrook says the airport has taken new measures to help all of the new visitors to Austin. Customer service representatives are seen throughout the airport's lower Arrivals area; they’re the ones in the bright yellow shirts that read "Welcome Race Fans." The representatives speak French, Spanish, Arabic and several other languages native to the arriving race fans.
"We understand that most F1 fans speak English," says Halbrook. "But just to be more welcoming and more friendly, we think it's a good idea if we can great them in their native languages."
It’s not surprising, considering 88 of the 300 private airplanes at ABIA this afternoon flew in from countries outside the U.S. "They come from as far away as the U.K., Mexico and all over the United States,” Halbrook says. “They range in size from propeller-driven Cessnas to 747s."
The airport is anticipated to experience traffic similar to Thanksgiving travel. However, while the airport is certainly busy, it's certainly not nearly as crowded as many have expected. There’s relatively few lines upstairs for departing gates. And downstairs in the baggage claim, it's definitely noisy but not hectic. The longest lines are for the car rentals.
Still, 18,000 people are expected to fly into Austin today. Halbrook says if you still need to get here, leave early.