NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Thanksgiving holiday is considered a peak travel period, with thousands of passengers passing through the Nashville International Airport (BNA) all week.

While many people have already started catching flights to see their families, BNA projects that Wednesday, Nov. 22 will be the next peak travel day. Airport officials also expect to see an influx of travelers immediately after the Thanksgiving holiday on Sunday, Nov. 26.

An estimated 35,000 passengers are expected to depart from the airport on each of those days. But whether you’re flying into or out of BNA, there may be a few noticeable differences this year, and some you’ll want to prepare for before heading to the airport.

Structural changes to the airport

Since last Thanksgiving, the airport has added a new concourse, food options and made some other structural changes. In January, BNA unveiled a new 200,000 square foot lobby that includes 24 Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening lanes and various art installations.

After years of construction, Nashville International Airport unveiled its new lobby to the public Tuesday, Jan. 24. (Photo: WKRN)

Previously, there were only six security lanes. The project was a part of the airport’s $1.4 billion expansion plan, which also included an international arrivals facility (IAF) that opened in September and a new satellite concourse that added more flight options last month.

The IAF includes six new gates and facilities designed to accommodate surging international travel to and from Middle Tennessee. Some of the gates will also accommodate domestic flights to expand the airport’s capacity amid record-breaking numbers of passengers.

New concourse for Allegiant, Spirit passengers

The satellite concourse, encompassing gates C4 through C11, is designed to accommodate the operations of Allegiant Air and Spirit Airlines. Passengers access the satellite concourse at the shuttle station from the main terminal, adjacent to Gate C13.

From there, a fleet of electric shuttles run every three minutes, fitting up to 69 passengers per shuttle. The facility also has several new retail and concession options, with Distillery District Market, Gulch Goods and Nashville Supply Co. located within the new concourse.

(Photo: WKRN)

The new BNA Marketplace, which opened in September, includes 15 dining, retail and service amenities, including ACME Feed & Seed, Titans Press Box, a full-service restaurant and bar in partnership with the Tennessee Titans, Voodoo Doughnut, and Kitty Hawk, among others.

BNA plans to complete an on-site Hilton Hotel and terminal garage in December.

Parking at the airport

Another change travelers might notice is the relocation of the airport’s cell phone waiting area. BNA opened a new cell lot in March at 1415 Murfreesboro Pike after the other lots were closed due to ongoing roadway construction.

While a farther distance than before, the lot is two and a half times larger than the other lots, with a total of 240 spaces. The lot, which is first come, first serve, features real-time flight information monitors for drivers who need to check the status of incoming flights.

Park BNA bus
Park BNA bus (Photo: WKRN)

According to BNA, the average drive time from the new cell lot to the terminal is around five to seven minutes. The distance is approximately three miles. Those picking up travelers should allow 20 to 30 minutes from landing time for them to reach the curb.

Officials also advise allotting extra time for parking this week amid the heavier passenger volume. BNA has six parking options to choose from. If parking in valet, passengers coming from I-40 will only be able to access this area from Exit 216B.

Those heading to the airport may want to take a different exit this year as lines commonly span down I-40 East from Exit 216A. Last month, digital signs went up on Interstate 65 South and I-40 East to direct travelers to alternate routes and ideally prevent pile ups.

Travelers can check parking details and availability here.  

Other helpful tips for holiday travel

Airport officials also offered a few additional tips to make traveling over the holidays as seamless as possible. Those tips are listed below.

  • Sign up for BNA Text Alerts. Click on BNA Text Alerts at the top of for valuable tips, updates, and traffic information so you can ensure a seamless travel experience to BNA. 
  • Arrive early. Give yourself plenty of time to park, check in, and get to your gate. Generally, passengers should arrive two hours before your flight.
  • Take alternate routes to BNA. With the increase of travelers during the holiday season, there will be more passengers arriving and departing from the airport. Consider alternate routes to BNA – Exit 216B and Murfreesboro Pike – during heavy travel periods.  
  • Check the status of your flight before arriving at BNA. Officials advise passengers to check the status of your flight before coming to the airport.    
  • Pack smart. Make yourself familiar with TSA’s Top Travel Tips for a more efficient travel experience.