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'Never Seen Anything Like This': Cars Abandoned, Hours-Long Security Lines as Major U.S. Airport Grapples With Fuel Shortages

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport was not ready for an influx of passengers early this week.

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Most seasoned travelers will tell you to arrive at the airport on the earlier side in case of long security lines or other check-in delays. But travelers trying to leave from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Texas earlier this week were in for a particularly rude awakening. A perfect storm of aircraft fuel shortages and overwhelming influx of travelers led to horrific delays by Monday afternoon, with travelers forced to abandon rental cards on the side of the road and passengers staring down security lines swelling up to 3,000 people at any given time.

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The airport said that TSA processed a whopping 8,965 passengers on Sunday prior to 8 a.m. and an additional 8,252 passengers before 8 a.m. on Monday, attributing the high volume to various regional sporting events and an inadequate supply of fuel. "The shortage is due to the current demand for aircraft fuel outpacing the supply," a spokesperson told local news outlet KXAN. "On any given day, we have about a two-to-three-day supply. Most airports average five to seven."

"We appreciate the patience and understanding of our passengers and continue to ask them to plan ahead, arrive early and show kindness to airport and airline staff who are working hard to get them safely to their destination," the airport wrote.

Related: The 10 Worst Airports in the U.S.

However, disgruntled customers took to social media to report on security lines that went outside and wrapped around the building, security wait times of over an hour and cars so backed up that many were unable to even get over the ramp.

"The rental car place at the Austin airport is closed so everyone is just leaving their cars in the through lanes of the garage," one traveler lamented. "It's getting all backed up and people can't get up the ramp. I dunno what to do!"

"There's no safe pathways for strollers and wheelchairs," another concerned traveler said. "We're all in lines out and around the airport despite arriving timely and having pre check / clear."

Others called the situation a "safety hazard" and "mess."

Related: Major U.S. Airline Announces New Ticket Type With Added Perks

In a January 2022 report, the airport revealed that passenger traffic for the month of November 2021 was up 212.3% compared to November '20, with October 2021 showing an increase of 199.6% year over year during the same period.

The airport began a major expansion plan that was approved and announced in 2019 to keep up with an increase in demand. "AUS was originally built in 1999," the airport explained at the time. "It was originally designed to serve 11 million passengers. The Master Plan reflects the anticipated doubling of passenger growth to serve more than 31 million annual passengers...AUS expects to exceed 31 million annual passengers by the year 2037, and the Master Plan is intended to guide how AUS accommodates this growth."

Earlier this year, the Austin City Council approved an additional $46 million expansion for the airport, including the implantation of three new gates in the Barbara Jordan Terminal.

Moral of the story? If you're making your way to our through Austin any time soon, might be smart to invest in TSA PreCheck.

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