Image: Traveler
Scott Fisher  /  AP
Wayne Defrancesco of Baltimore reads in the baggage claim area of the Palm Beach International Airport on Sunday.
updated 11/27/2006 12:06:28 PM ET 2006-11-27T17:06:28

Ken Edwards brought his 11-year-old son to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport nearly three hours before his flight home to make sure they had plenty of time to negotiate lines and get a boarding pass.

The early arrival turned out to be unnecessary. Traffic was smooth. Parking was easy. Lines were short. Happily, they had time to kill, said Edwards, 44, of Albany, Ga.

“We were expecting the worst,” he said. “I’m not sure what’s going on, but everything’s going perfect.”

Many travelers across the country could relate. A dry and relatively mild weekend made for calm airports, railyards and roadways from Boston to Atlanta to Chicago to Dallas.

One exception was in Washington state, where 15 inches of snow fell near the Canadian border and traffic slowed to a crawl on the state’s main east-west corridor. Farther south, snow chains were mandatory on vehicles traveling on two major highways linking Sacramento, Calif., to ski resorts in Nevada’s Lake Tahoe area.

But in Atlanta, “On Time” flashed next to most flight numbers on departure boards at Hartsfield-Jackson and security checkpoint lines took less than 10 minutes.

“They’re in a pretty happy mood,” Bobby Anderson, a 73-year-old shoe shiner, said while watching the largely relaxed crowd at one of the world’s busiest airport.

New York’s Penn Station was crowded Sunday but everything was running smoothly. Trains were leaving on time. Andrew Galloway, a top manager at Amtrak who is chief of corridor development, was manning an information table, helping passengers.

“This is typically the second-heaviest travel day of the year,” Galloway said. “Wednesday is the heaviest. We’ve rented trains from some of the commuter agencies to provide extra seats.”

At Boston’s Logan International Airport, Clive Higgins, of Marblehead, Mass., said his flight from Raleigh, N.C., was 30 minutes late taking off, so he was surprised to find Logan so quiet. At the U.S. Airways terminal, more flights were arriving early than late at one point.

“It’s like a dream,” Higgins said.

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Danny Levy, spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Port Authority that operates the airport, said people were spreading out Thanksgiving travel plans over several days, instead of hitting the airport in one mass.

At Los Angeles International Airport, members of a city union protested for renewed contract negotiations, though the demonstration was not disruptive, police spokeswoman Martha Garcia said.

As calm as the crowds were at Hartsfield-Jackson, one exception was Chris Donaldson of Alpharetta, Ga. He had taken his family to Santa Domingo for Thanksgiving and they were to fly back Saturday, but mechanical problems on their flight led to a cascade of headaches.

Dressed in flip-slops and shorts, they were ultimately routed to New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, landing Saturday night. “It was about 45 degrees, and we’d come from 87,” he noted. They had to get up early Sunday to catch a flight out of another New York airport, LaGuardia. It was a 26-hour experience that left them visibly exhausted.

To rub salt to the wound: Donaldson had tickets to the 1 p.m. football game in Atlanta between the Falcons and the Saints, on the 45-yard line, twenty rows back. He’d been looking forward to it all season. But he didn’t land in Atlanta until about a noon, and had to get his weary family home.

The game was out of the question.

“As far as traveling nightmares go, it’s right up there,” he said.

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