Logan International Airport is ready to roll out the cots, food, and beverage vouchers, and employees volunteering to aid the distressed. The airport is bracing for the busiest travel time of the year: Thanksgiving week.
Logan officials expect about 564,000 travelers to flood the Boston airport next week, 2.5 percent more than the 550,000 passengers who rushed through during last year's Thanksgiving week.
And the planes will be 95 to 100 percent full, leaving little room to rebook passengers whose flights might be canceled.
So the Massachusetts Port Authority, which runs the airport, is beefing up its program to comfort those who get stuck sitting at terminal gates instead of on jets.
A traveler stranded or severely delayed can snooze on one of 500 cots tucked away throughout the terminals, gulp down free bottled water, and cash in food vouchers at concessions that will be open late.
Edward Freni, Massport's aviation director, said a two- or three-hour postponement might qualify for a free meal, but the airport will work with the airlines to decide on a case-by-case basis.
Additionally, there will be 40 Massport administrators volunteering throughout the airport next week, pointing passengers in the right direction and answering questions. "It's an extra body out there that can help assist our customers," Freni said.
Logan is hoping to minimize glitches by allowing any airline's late flight to unload passengers at one of four gates in Terminal C vacated this week when Continental Airlines moved to Terminal A.
President Bush also outlined an effort yesterday to temporarily ease flight delays by opening military air space on the East Coast to civilian carriers from Wednesday evening through the following Sunday. This will add two north-south routes to the hundreds that commercial airlines already use on the Eastern Seaboard.
The extra flight paths should be especially helpful to New York City-area airports and planes caught in bad weather, the Federal Aviation Administration said.
The FAA has also imposed a moratorium on nonessential maintenance, construction, and renovation projects at FAA facilities around Thanksgiving and Christmas so its staff can give full attention to handling flights.
The National Air Traffic Controllers Association, a labor union, said allowing commercial planes to use military exercise airspace won't ease flight delays, since the problem stems from an overwhelmed staff and limited airport gates and runways.
"The controller workforce is tired, fed up, and stressed out," Doug Church, the union's spokesman.
Massport is trying to keep travelers from being stressed out while traveling to and from Logan. Its board voted yesterday to charge economy-lot parking rates for the 14,100 spaces in the more expensive airport garages that are closer to the terminals, offering each driver a $6 daily savings.
The $18-per-day economy rate will apply to the Central Parking Garage, Terminal B Garage, or Terminal E parking lots between 3 a.m. Tuesday and 3 a.m. the following Sunday.
For those taking public transportation, Massport will have additional Logan Express buses on standby serving Braintree, Framingham, Peabody, and Woburn. Massport also run extra shuttle busses to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's Blue Line Airport Station. For its part, the T plans additional subway and Silver Line service during peak travel periods Wednesday, according to its website.
On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, Massport plans to have more than 10,000 taxis available at the airport, compared with a typical Sunday's 6,500.
Nicole C. Wong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.