Phoenix airport busy but calm on busy travel day

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX (AP) -- The airport in Phoenix was humming Sunday but travelers were seeing few delays as the Thanksgiving holiday weekend wrapped up and families shed tears as loved ones went their separate ways.

Long but quick-moving lines at baggage checks and relatively short lines at security checkpoints were the norm at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport as the travel crush got under way.

Some families, like Mary Ellen Valenzuela's, were sending students back to college. With two boys away at school and her Army officer husband stationed in Texas, she walked her son Matthew as close to the gate as she could get. All three of the Valenzuela men came home for the holiday.

"It's so great to have our family together," she said. "We haven't been together for probably over a year in our house in Goodyear, so it was a very special Thanksgiving."

Matthew Valenzuela, an Air Force Academy freshman, said his long weekend with family was refreshing after the constant pressure at the academy.

"It's relaxing, that for sure. You're constantly going at the Academy," he said. "It's just good to kind of unwind a little bit when you get home."

For Jose Loera, of Glendale, sending his youngest child, 18-year-old Yvonne, back to New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas, N.M., wasn't that difficult.

"I also have another older daughter, so I got used to about my kids going away to college. It's nice, a nice feeling," he said.

Away from home for the first time in the fall, his daughter was elated to be home.

"She's very, very happy, but in the meantime she knows that it's only for a few days and then she needs to go back to school. It's a process," Loera said.

Most flights leaving Phoenix showed on-time departures, and many parents were pleased to see short lines. Both Jose Loera and Mary Ellen Valenzuela said they were amazed when they approached the security checkpoints and found shorter-than-usual lines for their children to navigate through.

"I can't believe that, they're doing a great job today," Valenzuela said. "I thought it was going to be just a disaster."

Loera was more realistic about the early calm at the airport on the busy travel day: "I guess because it's still in the morning. As the day goes on, it's going to get busier and busier."