Year-End Holidays To Be Some of the Busiest Days in Recent Years at TUS

Thanks to the arrival of new airlines, new routes and the calendar, 2018’s year-end holidays are shaping up to be some of the busiest days in recent memory at Tucson International Airport (TUS).

And airlines are ready with added flights on most days from December 19 through January 6.

The fact that the two major holidays, Christmas and New Year’s, are on Tuesdays instead of on or next to the weekend as they have been the past three years, usually means more people take advantage of the time to travel because it allows passengers several days to get to where they want before the holidays and several days to return.

Judging by airline schedules, the busiest days this year at TUS will be December 26-29 between the two holidays. Otherwise passengers can expect busier days the weekend of December 22-24 and then again January 5-7 before most school-aged children return to class.

Christmas Tamales

“May I bring tamales through the TSA checkpoint?”

That gets to be a popular question at TUS this time of year and there’s a new answer, sort of.

According to the TSA, the best thing to do is make sure the tamales are frozen and then put them in your checked luggage. It is possible frozen tamales could be allowed through the TSA checkpoint in your carry-on BUT a directive issued this past summer requires closer inspection of any partially melted frozen foods. That also includes ice packs that have begun to melt.

As always, the final decision rests with the TSA officers on duty on whether an item can be allowed through the checkpoint.

The safest way to have a Merry Christmas at your destination is to fully freeze and check the tamales.

The TSA can help you with other questions here:

New Airlines

TUS has four new airlines – one more than was at the airport at Thanksgiving time.

  • Sun Country Airlines– back for a second winter season with nonstop flights to/from Minneapolis-St. Paul starting December 17. The airline is boosting service to four days a week – Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Another change: it has now adopted the ultra low cost fare model. Check-in counter is on the east side of the ticketing level. Flights depart from Gate A2.
  • Allegiant – flies to Bellingham (Vancouver) and Provo. Check-in counter is on the east side of the ticketing level. Flights depart from Gate A2. (However, see the story below about the new C Gates)
  • Frontier Airlines– flies to Denver. Check-in counter is on the east side of the ticketing level. Flights depart from Gate A1.
  • Via Air– flies to Austin. Check-in counter is on the east side of the ticketing level. Flights depart from Gate A1.

All these airlines are known for offering ultra low fares and to keep costs low thus they have some strict policies, especially when it comes to checking in for a flight. All three open their check-in counters 2 hours ahead of scheduled flight time and close them 45 minutes before the flight.


Dunkin’ Donuts is now open for your early-morning coffee and breakfast needs. It’s on the A Concourse, next to Gate A1.

Other places to grab a bite or a beverage near the A Gates (Allegiant, Frontier, Southwest, Sun Country, United and Via Air): Sir Veza’s Kitchen & Kantina, Beyond Bread, Empire Pizza and The Maverick. Near the B Gates (Alaska, American and Delta) are El Charro Café, Bruegger’s Bagels, Beyond Bread, BUILT Custom Burgers and Thunder Canyon Brewstillery.

Outside of security is Noble Hops in the Center of the ticketing level. It offers validated airport parking with a minimum $15 purchase. Arbuckles’ Coffee is open in Baggage Claim on the lower level.

Check List

Here are five things to check as you prepare to head for the airport:

  1. Check to see if your flight is on time here: But don’t dawdle if it’s late. Airlines can make adjustments to get a flight back on schedule. Also, some airlines still close their check-in counter as much as 45 minutes ahead of the scheduled departure time and deny passenger boarding – even a late flight – if the passenger wasn’t checked in by the deadline. On the other hand, if you are worried about making a connection due to a delayed flight, check with your airline online or by phone to see if they have made other arrangements for you.
  2. Check your parking options at TUS here:  With more than 7,500 spaces finding an empty one somewhere isn’t an issue, but by checking online you will be able to see which lots have the most availability. If you do park in the Economy lots, know that courtesy shuttles operate 24/7.
  3. Don’t wrap gifts. The TSA may need to open them if security equipment indicates it could be suspicious. It’s also better to put it through in your checked baggage.  The TSA can help with  questions here:
  4. Bring your patience. At this time of year there are more travelers who may be unfamiliar with airline rules and TSA regulations so it’s good to prepared for that. Even at TUS, it wouldn’t hurt to be at the airport as much as 2 hours ahead of your flight.
  5. Try out some of the new eats and shops at TUS. Info is here: