OIA parking lots hit capacity as holiday travel soars on Thanksgiving Day

Navigating around Orlando International Airport can be a bit of a headache. 

"I saw a lot of cars double-parked when I was coming in and I was like ‘oh dang,’" said Samira Harris, who traveled to Orlando from Pennsylvania.

"It wasn’t bad getting here but once we got to the airport it was a little confusing," said Debbie Heckathorne, who is flying to Pennsylvania.

On this Thanksgiving Day, each of OIA’s terminal and economy parking lots hit full capacity. Parking areas were barricaded off, and signage pointed toward overflow parking, even for employees at Garage C. 

We found plenty of cars parking along roadway shoulders, backing up traffic heading into arrivals at Terminals A and B, which is something the airport warns against directly. 

"Please do not park on the side of the road. It’s a huge safety issue. It further delays traffic. In the long run, it’ll further delay you getting to the curbs to pick up your loved one or your friends or your family," said GOAA Chief of Operations Tom Draper.

Instead, they recommend waiting for a loved one at the North or South Cell Phone Lot and driving to arrivals once they’ve gotten off the plane. Those who did that say it’s worth going the extra bit of distance. 

"I don’t think it’s right really. They block traffic and then the police are going to come and they’re going to tell them to move along and you’re better off just coming here," said Joe Piparo, of DeBary.

Airport officials estimate 101,500 people would fly in and out of OIA on Thanksgiving Day, making it the least busy day of the 12 Thanksgiving travel days. But travelers told FOX 35 they didn’t think it was so quiet. 

"I took the shuttle bus from the car rental and there was quite a bit of traffic outside coming into the airport. For Thanksgiving, I didn’t think I’d see any traffic," said John Kurtz, who was visiting from Wisconsin.

"No, I really didn’t think it was going to be this busy," said Heckathorne.

Airport officials say if you’re going to be at the airport this weekend, follow signage for parking or call the airport at 407-825-2104. Off-site parking may be your best bet. 

Expect Saturday to be the busiest travel day this weekend, followed by Sunday.