Thanksgiving travel got off to a rough start at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport over the weekend as more than 500 flights were canceled due to wet and freezing weather.But the airport expects to be filled with holiday travelers by the end of the week.More than 2.1 million passengers are expected to pass through DFW Airport this week, up 2.6 percent over last year. And as more travelers make their way to the terminals, the airport’s staff recommends that consumers get there early and take advantage of a few holiday perks.Airport staff suggest that travelers plan to arrive 2 1/2 hours before their flight’s scheduled departure time.“Helping to make our passengers’ overall experience as pleasant as possible is one of our goals, and arriving early, knowing what’s available to you when you get here, we hope will be a great start to any holiday travel,” said Sean Donohue, DFW Airport’s chief executive officer.Recent work has helped to smooth out DFW’s new parking toll plaza system, which opened with hiccups a couple of months ago. The old plaza structures at the north and south entrances have been mostly demolished, making it easier for drivers to determine which entry and exit lanes are open. DFW’s new mobile app will also provide real-time parking lot information to drivers.While the airport expects to be busy, most travelers will be driving to their Thanksgiving destinations this week.AAA-Texas expects 3.4 million Texans to travel during the traditional Thanksgiving holiday period from Wednesday to Sunday. The majority, about 3.1 million, are expected to drive more than 50 miles from home. Travel will be slightly down this year compared to 2012 because of lingering economic concerns, the auto club said last week.Texas travelers, who were surveyed by AAA Texas, will travel an average of 591 miles round-trip and spend an average of $627 on their trip.Nationwide, AAA estimates that 43.4 million will travel for the weekend, down 1.5 percent from last year. Travelers will spend an average of $465 on Thanksgiving travel, a decrease of 7 percent.“While the economy continues to improve, the sluggish pace of the recovery is creating uncertainty in the minds of some consumers and therefore AAA is projecting a slight decline in the number of Thanksgiving travelers this year,” said AAA’s chief operating officer, Marshall Doney. At DFW, Thanksgiving is just the opener for the busy Christmas travel season. And the airport has some special services planned.Free shipping will be offered on gifts purchased at participating concessionaires through Dec. 24, said DFW spokesman David Magana. Free gift-wrapping is available from 1 to 5 p.m. each day through Dec. 24, but only at a kiosk near gate D24.“When you see Grandma, you want to see the gifts wrapped, but you can’t take the gifts wrapped through security, so we’re glad to able to offer that once you go through security to wrap it for you,” Magana said.Officials hope a busy holiday travel season puts a nice bow on what has been a terrific year at the airport. DFW is expected to top 60 million passengers this year, the most since 2006 and the second-highest year in its history, Magana said.The best year on record was 2000, with 60.68 million passengers at DFW, according to Airports Council International. But since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the airport has struggled to get back to that service level.“We’ve seen a lot of growth internationally over the last three years, with 21 new international destinations and new city pairs,” Magana said. Staff writer Gordon Dickson contributed to this report.
Andrea Ahles, 817-390-7631 Twitter: @Sky_Talk