DFW AIRPORT -- Passengers expecting long lines at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport on Tuesday were pleasantly surprised at how smoothly their holiday trips began.
"There is nobody here," said Brent Engelage of Houston, who met his family at the check-in counters at Terminal A and was flying to Chicago on Tuesday afternoon. "I expected it to be a zoo."
But the light crowds don't mean that many people aren't on the go this week.
DFW Airport is projecting that 1.83 million passengers will pass through the airport during the 13-day holiday period (Nov. 17 through Nov. 29), up 1 percent from last year.
Travelers leaving DFW today and on Thanksgiving Day can expect full flights, although the airport is not likely to be as busy as it will be Sunday and Monday, when many travelers return home.
"People are spreading their travel out as they take the whole week off and schools are now off all week," said Joel Frey, a spokesman for Southlake-based Travelocity.com. "The front end of the holiday is not as busy at the airport. But Sunday, it will be."
The airport advises travelers to arrive at least 90 minutes before a domestic flight and two hours early for an international flight.
It is also offering coupons for its shops and restaurants as part of its new smartphone Microsoft tag marketing program.
Frey said that average Thanksgiving fares are up 6 percent from last year and that the average fare out of DFW Airport is $350.
Dallas resident Andre Woodson bought his ticket to Los Angeles a little over a month ago and paid $250 for his American Airlines flight.
"I had previously planned to visit my family for Thanksgiving, but it was a very good price," Woodson said, adding that he packed everything into two carry-ons to avoid a checked-bag fee.
In Terminal A and Terminal D on Tuesday, security and check-in lines were moving quickly. The airport did not appear busier than usual, although the Remote South lot was already full and no uncovered parking spaces were available at Express North as of Tuesday afternoon.
The airport opened 1,000 new covered parking spaces in its Express North lot two weeks ago to accommodate holiday travelers and ease parking difficulties that occurred after one of its three Terminal A garages was closed as part of the $1.9 billion terminal renovation in May.
Tim and Andrea Kloepping chose to avoid the parking issues altogether as they got ready for their family trip to Disney World.
"We were dropped off so we didn't have to worry about parking," Tim Kloepping said, adding that he was surprised the airport wasn't busy two days before the holiday.
AAA Texas estimates that 3.3 million Texans will travel 50 miles or more from home between today and Sunday, a 5 percent increase from 2010. Nationwide, AAA expects 42.5 million travelers to journey more than 50 miles, an increase of 4 percent. The average distance traveled by Texans during the Thanksgiving period is expected to be 959 miles round trip.
"Because of our state economy, we are doing a little bit better, and that's reflected in discretionary travel dollars," said AAA Texas spokeswoman Sarah Schimmer.
Corpus Christi resident Judy Su arrived two hours ahead of her scheduled flight to Hawaii and was passing time in the lobby since the security lines were short. Su said her son, who lives in Dallas, was taking the family to Honolulu for the holidays.
"We don't usually travel for Thanksgiving. We usually stay at home during the holidays and I cook because everyone comes to my house," Su said. "So this is a special treat."
Andrea Ahles, 817-390-7631