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Fans encountering smooth departures at airport

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The most congested area of Indianapolis International Airport Monday morning may have been the Lids souvenir stand at the center of the food court.

Super Bowl XLVI-branded merchandise was marked half off about 7:30 a.m., and travelers flocked around the stand for the next hour. They had plenty of time to shop, as most waits to clear the security checkpoint were less than 10 minutes. The peak period, between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m., was 15 minutes long, airport personnel said.

“I’ve been impressed with the whole area of Indianapolis,” said John Pagnozzi, a New England Patriots fan from Mystic, Conn., who saw his team lose 21-17 to the New York Giants on Sunday night.

Pagnozzi's entire trip, from walking around downtown, to entering Lucas Oil Stadium, to clearing the security checkpoint at the airport in four minutes, was a breeze, he said. “You can see this was well-thought-out.”

That’s exactly what Super Bowl planners wanted in giving a last impression to Super Bowl visitors.

“Everybody’s anticipation is the party, the game, enjoying the festivities,” said Mike Medvescek, chief operating officer at the airport. Then, he said, “They want to get out quickly.”

The airport took several steps to prevent a post-game bottleneck. People returning rental cars were directed to a remote parking lot and shuttled to the terminal, thereby cutting down on traffic near the terminal. 

The Transportation Security Administration added two lines on each concourse for a total of 18. The entire airport staff, about 500 people, was on duty for 12-hour shifts over the weekend and into Monday.

Medvescek expected a number of fans to head straight to the airport from the game and spend the night in the terminal, so the airport authority asked the airlines to keep their ticket counters open all night. Likewise, vendors were open extra hours. That included the bar Vinea, which opened three hours early, at 7 a.m., but drew few customers.

More than 800 private aircraft were parked at Indianapolis International and area commuter airports during the game, said Sean White, a member of the subcommittee for reliever airports. Most took off immediately afterward.

“It was crazy after the game last night,” he said.

The number of private aircraft in the area was at least on par with Dallas last year and may have set a Super Bowl record, White said. He thinks the fact that both teams draw from a wealthy fan base contributed to the numbers.

Most of the corporate jets, 528, were parked at Indianapolis International, but smaller airports were busy as well. At Indianapolis Executive Airport in Zionsville, 100 volunteers were on hand to greet passengers and help with ground transport over the weekend, White said.

In another effort to create a positive impression with visitors as they leave Indianapolis, Mayor Greg Ballard planned to be at the airport at midday to thank travelers for visiting the city.

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