WASHINGTON — Texan Jason Carlson spent hours in line waiting for Barack Obama’s inauguration and found himself backed up in yet another line the day after — waiting to get out of town. At least this time he wasn’t shivering.
“After waiting nine hours in the Mall yesterday in the cold, this is nothing,” the 30-year-old Carlson said while standing in an extended security line at Reagan National Airport. “After that wait, this is convenient and warm.”
The hordes who came to town for Obama’s inauguration ran into still more crowds — and delays — at area airports and the city’s train station Wednesday as they tried to head home.
Travelers waited in long lines to check-in and at security gates at airports. Amtrak officials said trains out of Union Station were sold out for much of the day.
Alexander Hernandez, 22, of Portage, Ind., spent the night at Reagan National Airport after attending inaugural festivities in downtown Washington. He said he and others slept atop heating vents and chairs. When he awoke around 7 a.m., there were lines snaking through the terminal.
“It was ridiculous. It just kept going,” he said of the lines. “I’m assuming everyone was trying to get out of here.”
Airlines at Reagan National and Dulles International Airport added extra flights and used larger aircraft Wednesday to accommodate the large passenger load, said Courtney Mickalonis, a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
“For both airports, we were very busy this morning with passengers heading home from inauguration events this weekend,” she said.
Some passengers who arrived at Reagan National in the morning and waited for hours in a US Airways ticket line.
Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport in Linthicum, Md., projected 35,000 passengers would be leaving the airport Wednesday. Many of those people were in town for the inauguration, according to Jonathan Dean, an airport spokesman.
“The airport has seen a lot of excited travelers, although many of them seem tired,” Dean said. “I suspect it’s been an exciting and busy time in Washington for these customers.”
At the Southwest Airlines ticketing gate, red, white, and blue balloons and American flags greeted travelers. The lines at Southwest and Delta were filled with large groups of middle and high school students who traveled to view the historic swearing-in ceremony.
Thirteen-year-old Lea Kelsey, an eighth grader at Herbert Slater Middle School in Santa Rosa, Calif., rested her head on her luggage cart while waiting with her parents and 17 classmates for the flight back to the West coast.
It was tiring, but she said the five-day trip was worth it. “We got to see all these cool things, and it was fun, and historic.”
Meanwhile, rail riders flocked to Union Station as they began their trips home. Amtrak spokesman Tracy Connell said trains were sold out Tuesday through late Wednesday afternoon.
“It still is a very busy day,” she said.
A day after Metrorail set an all-time ridership record, subway traffic is back to typical weekday loads, said Steven Taubenkibel, a Metro spokesman.
“We’re not seeing anything like we saw the last couple of days,” he said.
During their final hours in town, some visitors snapped up last-minute souvenirs at Reagan National, from kiosks and shops selling products with President Barack Obama’s image.