Jim Burress

Senior Reporter

Jim Burress is a proud native of Louisville, Kentucky. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Wabash College in Indiana, and a master’s in Mass Communication from Murray State University.  That's where Jim started his public radio career (WKMS-FM). 

Jim moved to Atlanta to work on his PhD, but after a year away from reporting, he realized he preferred the newsroom to the classroom.  He came to WABE in the spring of 2008 when there were just six people in the entire newsroom. 

As a licensed pilot, Jim is fascinated by airplanes and aviation, which is why you’ll often hear him report on the commercial aviation industry.   As a Kaiser Health News/NPR fellow, Jim also covers healthcare and healthcare policy for WABE. 

In 2014, Jim wrote and produced WABE's first news documentary in more than a decade, "Stuck in the Bluff." He also traveled to Liberia to document the West African country's efforts to rebuild post civil-war, and happened to be at the same hospital, the same week, where the massive Ebola outbreak started.  

Jim is a frequent contributor to the national show Marketplace, and his reports regularly air nationally on NPR's Morning Edition, and All Things Considered.

Jim has won numerous professional awards, including 1st place honors from both the Kentucky and Georgia Associated Press and several regional Edward R. Murrow Awards.  In 2010, the Atlanta Press Club awarded Jim its radio “Award of Excellence” for his reporting on unlawful practices within the Atlanta Police Department, and again in 2012 for a joint project looking at special needs students attending Clayton County schools. 

But his biggest prize came in 2001 when he won it all on the game show, "The Price is Right."  

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Local
7:44 am
Wed March 18, 2015

Atlanta Police Union Sides With Those Suing APD

Those suing Atlanta Police say officer conduct during local Ferguson, Missouri, protests indicate the department isn't following a federal court order. In a letter to the court, the head of Atlanta's police union agrees.
Credit Evan Jang / WABE

The head of the Atlanta Police Union says the city of Atlanta isn’t properly training its officers, and in an unusual twist, Ken Allen ─ International Brotherhood of Police Officers Local 623 president ─ has written a letter supporting a lawsuit against the department.

The letter, filed late Tuesday with Atlanta’s federal court, says the department’s shortcomings open officers to disciplinary action and the potential for criminal liability.

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Local
5:24 pm
Fri March 13, 2015

"We're Here. We're Clear." Fifth Annual Ginger Pride Parade Set For Saturday

The Ginger Pride Parade in Rome, Ga grows every year. While the event primarily involves redheads, organizers say all are welcome.
Credit James Schroeder

Normally, parade organizers hope it won’t rain.

That’s not the case for those behind the fifth-annual Ginger Pride Parade, scheduled for noon Saturday in downtown Rome, Georgia. 

After all, no sunshine means no sunburns for the hundreds of marchers expected.  

The event is the brainchild of James Schroeder, who says even as an adult he gets taunted about his copper locks. 

“You get picked on and it’s not fun," says Schroeder. "You can’t help it.”

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Airlines & Aviation
6:22 am
Fri March 13, 2015

Airports And Airlines Locked In Fight Over Fee Increase

A new runway is one example of how airports like Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International spend Passenger Facility Charges.
Credit Jim Burress / WABE

Every time you take off from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International – or any domestic commercial airport – you and everyone else on the flight fork over $4.50 to pay the  Passenger Facility Charge, or PFC.

The money goes to fund airport infrastructure. PFCs paid for half of Atlanta's airport new $1.4 billion international terminal. They also funded a wildlife hazard study at Southwest Georgia Regional Airport in Albany.

Airports want the fee increased to $8, they say to keep up with their more than $14 billion in annual infrastructure costs. 

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Why Liberia?
3:46 pm
Thu March 12, 2015

Peace In Liberia, 10 Years Later: A Conversation At The Carter Center

The sun sets on a rural village in Lofa County, Liberia. Most villages like this have no running water, paved roads or electricity.
Credit Jim Burress / WABE

One year ago, WABE senior reporter Jim Burress traveled to Liberia on a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. He spent three weeks in the West African country, documenting how it is rebuilding more than a decade after the end of its brutal civil war.

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Airlines & Aviation
6:29 am
Thu March 12, 2015

Will More Seats Plus More Travelers Equal Lower Airfares?

Times are better, and airlines are adding back in some lost seats.
Credit Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

When the bottom dropped out of the economy, airlines parked planes and pulled seat capacity.

Times are better, airlines are seeing more passengers, and they’re adding back in some of those lost seats. That's creating "capacity pressure" in a number of markets, including Atlanta.

"There are a number of skirmishes breaking out, and ultimately the marketplace and consumers will determine what happens with fares," said John Heimleich, cheif economist for the industry trade group Airlines For America.

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Politics
6:36 am
Mon March 9, 2015

'Religious Freedom' Bill Could Invalidate Atlanta’s Non-Discrimination Policy

A rolling billboard in opposition to "religious freedom" bill circles the Georgia Capitol at the start of this year's legislative session.
Credit Jason Parker / WABE

Georgia’s “religious freedom” bill has sparked debate within the religious, business and LGBT communities.

If passed, the law could possibly weaken local anti-discrimination ordinances in Georgia cities ─ including Atlanta.

Such local policies go beyond the state’s protection.  For example, Atlanta’s ordinance says businesses can’t discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

However, state lawmakers behind the religious freedom bill are adamant ─ the measure wouldn’t strip those safeguards.

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Airlines and Aviation
5:58 am
Fri March 6, 2015

Group Petitions Hartsfield-Jackson Airport For Indian Or Middle Eastern Carrier

In this May 8, 2014, file photo, Emirates passenger planes are parked at their gates of Dubai airport in United Arab Emirates.
Credit Kamran Jebreili, File / Associated Press

Atlanta maintains its long-standing bragging rights as home to the “World’s Busiest Airport,” at least in terms of passenger volume.

But from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, there’s just one flight to the Middle East.

And if you want to fly directly from Atlanta to India, you’re completely out of luck.

In fact, Atlanta trails a host of other U.S. cities in terms of International access, including: Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles and New York. Each of those cities offers non-stop service from Dubai-based Emirates.

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A Closer Look
9:38 am
Tue February 17, 2015

Atlanta Police Ignoring Federal Order On Videotaping, Lawsuit Charges

Journalists arrested during local protests related to police action in Ferguson, Missouri say Atlanta Police forced them to stop recording.
Credit Ryan Nabulsi / twinlensatl.com

Note: Story updated to include response from City of Atlanta

It’s been more than five years since Felicia Anderson saw Atlanta Police beating a handcuffed suspect, grabbed her cell phone and started taking pictures of the scene from her front porch.

Police arrested Anderson and took her phone.

Anderson sued the city and won.

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The Affordable Care Act
5:06 pm
Fri February 13, 2015

Refugees Are The Focus Of Atlanta Obamacare Enrollment Effort

Many unfamiliar with navigating the healthcare landscape seek in-person help from a navigator. The deadline to sign up for this open enrollment period is Sunday.
Credit John Raoux / Associated Press

With the deadline for open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act quickly approaching, health officials are on a last-minute push to sign eligible people up for a plan. 

Among those is Elise Blasingame, a certified navigator with Georgia Watch. Friday morning, she was helping female refugees in Decatur understand their options under Obamacare.   

“It’s been pretty amazing to see how interested they are in learning about the Act," Blasingame says. 

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Airlines & Aviation
12:54 pm
Fri February 13, 2015

Southwest Airlines Offers Atlanta Unprecedented Perk

Since finishing its integration of AirTran Airways, Southwest has aggressively focused on courting Atlanta travelers.
Credit Mark Stevens / flickr.com/14723335@N05

Southwest Airlines, the No. 2 carrier by passenger volume at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, is offering the Atlanta market a perk normally reserved for the most elite travelers – a companion pass. 

The company called the promotion "historic." 

According to a Southwest press release, metro Atlanta residents "who fly three qualifying round trips on Southwest Airlines from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport between today and May 17, 2015, will earn a Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Companion Pass valid through the end of 2015."

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Transportation & Transit
5:59 am
Fri February 13, 2015

I-285/Ga. 400 Redo: Outdated Before The First Orange Barrel?

An artist rendering of changes coming to I-285/Ga. 400. Construction will begin in 2016 and wrap up in 2019. The project's cost: $1 billion.
Credit Georgia Dept of Transportation

Brace yourself, Atlanta commuters.  

Next year, the Georgia Department of Transportation begins a three year rework of the Interstate 285/Georgia 400 interchange. It promises to relieve congestion along one of the nation’s worst bottlenecks.

But the plan could already be outdated, thanks to recently-announced development.

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A Closer Look
5:43 pm
Wed February 11, 2015

Three Decades Of Atlanta's AIDS Epidemic Told Through A T-Shirt Quilt

Over her three-decade career working with AIDS patients, Jacque Muther has amassed a lot of related T-shirts. As she prepares to retire, she's commissioned Juanita Williams to craft them into a keepsake quilt.
Credit Jim Burress / WABE

  

In June of 1987, a small group of people gathered in San Francisco, California. They feared history would soon forget their friends and loved ones who were quickly dying of AIDS.

Members of that group came up with a collective idea ─ make a quilt. Many now know it as the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. It has more than 48, 000 panels, and it is housed and cared for here in Atlanta. 

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Health & Science
10:43 am
Thu February 5, 2015

Atlanta Metro Ranks No. 2 In Obamacare Sign-ups

Many who haven't signed up for a health plan under the Affordable Care Act seek in-person assistance. The deadline to sign up or face a penalty is Feb. 15.
Credit David Goldman / Associated Press

With just days left to sign up for health coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s insurance marketplace, there’s a last minute push to get Georgians signed up.

Even as health officials plan enrollment events throughout the state, new figures released Wednesday show Atlanta has the second highest number of Healthcare.gov sign-ups of any major metro (the data are only for the 37 states where the federal government operates the exchange). Only Miami had more.

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A Closer Look
5:50 pm
Wed February 4, 2015

Atlanta's Mary Kay Andrews Reflects On Harper Lee's Upcoming Novel

Atlanta author Mary Kay Andrews (Kathy Trocheck) says Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" influenced her own writing.
Credit Bill Miles

Kathy Hogan Trocheck's byline was a staple in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in the 1980s. She left the AJC to write fiction full-time in 1991, and has authored a number of best-selling books under the penname "Mary Kay Andrews."

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Airlines and Aviation
7:32 am
Mon February 2, 2015

Southwest Unveils 'Heartlanta' Campaign, Fare Sale

Southwest Airlines entered the Atlanta market in February 2012 through its merger with AirTran Airways. Southwest finished integrating AirTran in December and is now focused on gaining domestic market share at Hartsfield-Jackson.
Credit Jim Burress / WABE

Three years to the month after Southwest Airlines began service to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the Dallas-based carrier kicked off a campaign Monday aimed directly at luring local travelers.

Southwest calls it “Heartlanta.”

The kitschy advertisements feature smiling faces, dancing Atlanta-based employees and Southwest planes crossing the screen in dramatic slow motion.

“Hey Atlanta,” a female voice says at the start of the 15-second commercial. “You know how we know this is a real relationship? We’re picking you up at the airport.”

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Health & Science
6:04 am
Thu January 29, 2015

Expensive Hepatitis C Cure ─ Georgia Decides Who Gets It, Who Doesn't

Drug maker AbbVie’s hepatitis C treatment, Viekira Pak (seen here), is $83,000 on the wholesale market.
Credit Courtesy: AbbVie

There’s a new drug on the market that’s up to 99 percent effective at curing hepatitis C, an often deadly liver virus. The drug is known as “V-pak.”

Some Georgians will get it.

But thousands of HIV-positive Georgians, who also have hepatitis C, won't. 

The reason? Cost.

It's "just over $80,000 for a 12-week treatment," Britten Pund says. She’s with the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors, or "NASTAD." It's an umbrella organization that represents state AIDS directors, including Georgia's. 

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Covering the Affordable Care Act
3:42 pm
Fri January 23, 2015

Obamacare Enrolls 425,000 In Georgia

Sylvia Burwell, seen here in 2014, praised Georgia for enrolling 425,000 people into a health plan under the Affordable Care Act, but said the state still had a lot of ground to cover.
Credit Susan Walsh / Associated Press

The head of the federal agency overseeing Obamacare stopped at a southwest Atlanta health facility Friday to tout how many Georgians have benefited from the Affordable Care Act's insurance marketplace.

"The number is 425,000 today," said Synthia Burwell, Secretary of Health and Human Services.

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Airlines and Aviation
11:19 am
Sat January 17, 2015

FAA Inspector Bypasses Security, Takes Gun On Atlanta Flight

The FAA will require safety inspectors to go through security lines after an employee bypassed screening and brought a gun onto an Atlanta-New York flight.
Credit Jim Burress / WABE

The Federal Aviation Administration is suspending a program that allows some employees to bypass airport security after a safety inspector flew with a gun in his carry-on luggage.

The FAA employee got on a flight Tuesday from Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson to New York’s LaGuardia airport, where officials say he was arrested following a security check.

The arrest comes less than a month after investigators uncovered a gun-smuggling scheme involving airline employees on planes flying to New York from Atlanta, home to the world’s busiest airport.

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APD Under Fire for Handling of Case
5:14 pm
Fri January 16, 2015

Arrest Made In March LGBT Hate Crime

Atlanta police arrested 23-year-old Diego Ramirez of Atlanta and charged him with battery. Ramirez, seen here in a picture from his Facebook profile, is suspected of assaulting a gay man in Midtown last March.
Credit Facebook.com

Atlanta Police confirm to WABE they've made an arrest in a March assault investigators labeled a gay-targeted hate crime.

APD spokesman Ralph Woolfolk said in an email the Fugitive Unit arrested 23-year-old Diego Ramirez Thursday and charged him with battery. Ramirez was transported to the Fulton County Jail. It's not clear if he has an attorney.

Ramirez is suspected of attacking and throwing a gay man into traffic on Juniper St. in Midtown.

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Business
5:43 pm
Thu January 15, 2015

Businesses To Georgia Lawmakers: Fix Transportation, And Fix It Soon.

Gridlock is expanding beyond Atlanta, and some businesses are concerned they'll be unable to efficiently transport their products once they arrive at the Port of Savannah.
Credit John Bazemore / Associated Press

Be it spruce, noble fir or pine -- if it’s fake, and it’s a Christmas tree, Caroline Tuan is waiting for it at the Port of Savannah.

"Most of our product is imported," says Tuan, COO of California-based Balsam Brands. The company imports artificial Christmas trees through the Port of Savannah.

“What’s getting increasingly difficult for trucking companies is to stay on schedule," she says. That's because traffic congestion is increasing, causing longer and unpredictable travel times between the Port and Balsam's Atlanta warehouse. 

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Politics
4:14 pm
Mon January 12, 2015

Progressive Political Group Ready To Fight “Religious Freedom Bill"

Bryan Long, the founder and executive director of Better Georgia, says that the ''religious freedom bill'' is the biggest issue shaping up under the Gold Dome this session.
Credit Ken Lund / flickr.com/kenlund

The “religious freedom bill” proposed for this legislative session is likely to stimulate a lot of debate and controversy.

In fact, if you were to ask Bryan Long what he sees as the biggest issue shaping up under the Gold Dome this session, he doesn’t hesitate. “Absolutely, top-of-the-list is this ‘religious freedom bill,’” he says.

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Local
5:32 pm
Fri January 2, 2015

Atlanta Police Unable to Solve Anti-Gay Crime, Despite Video Evidence

This screen capture, published by the Ga Voice, shows a suspect in a March hate crime. Despite the clear picture, APD has yet to make an arrest.
Credit The GA Voice

Last year, there were 12 offenses classified as gay-targeted hate crimes. According to GA Voice, of those crimes, Atlanta police made just one arrest.

That arrest didn’t come in a higher-profile March case, despite video evidence.

Midtown Blue security footage, obtained by the Ga Voice, shows someone assaulting and pushing a gay man into oncoming traffic on Juniper Street. The victim was able to get back on his feet and back to the sidewalk without harm.

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Airlines and Aviation
2:41 pm
Sun December 28, 2014

AirTran's Final Flight

AirTran's final flight was on this Boeing 717, seen here at the gate at Tampa International. The airline was a launch customer for the plane. Now, it will go to a paint shop in Arizona where crews will repaint it with Delta Air Lines' logo and colors before sending it back to Atlanta.
Credit Jim Burress / WABE

(Note: Story updated to include information from final flight, web extra interviews)

Late Sunday night, AirTran Airways flew 115 117 passengers from Atlanta to Tampa. But the 70-minute trip was anything but a typical AirTran flight.

It was the final one.

More than 800 hopeful travelers were on the flight’s standby list. Most of the folks who made it onboard AirTran Flight 1 were current or former AirTran employees, with a handful of journalists and Southwest executives scattered among the seats.

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The Effects of Cheap Gas on MARTA Ridership
6:04 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

MARTA CEO Not Worried About Falling Gas Prices. But Should He Be?

Riders are slower to abandon rail when gas prices drop. Buses, on the other hand, have less loyal riders.

If you ask MARTA CEO Keith Parker how the transit system is doing, he’ll do a bit of bragging.

“Ridership is up. Revenues are up. Clayton [County] has joined. Crime is trending in the right direction,” he said Thursday at a media briefing, adding the transit system is the strongest it’s been in years.

But with numerous new initiatives on tap for the fiscal year, could lower gas prices pose a threat to ridership?

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Airlines and Aviation
5:43 am
Thu December 11, 2014

Fly On Christmas, Save On Airfare

Credit Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press

The Christmas holiday travel period is expected to be brisker this year, according to the industry trade group Airlines 4 America. About 45 million passengers are expected to take to the skies. That's up two percent compared to last year.

The good news? Airlines have added seats to accommodate the extra 47,000 passengers a day.

No surprise, Atlanta’s airport will be robust.

During a media briefing Wednesday, John Heimlich of the airline trade group Airlines 4 America said Hartsfield-Jackson will be the busiest, followed by LAX and Chicago-O'Hare.

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Business
12:57 pm
Mon December 8, 2014

Local Christmas Tree Sales "Brisk" For First Time In Years

A barn dubbed the "Christmas Cottage" is one way Big John's Christmas Trees makes money during the holiday season. Big John's owner says customers are more interested in ancillary services this year compared to the past few, a move he thinks represents an improving economy.
Credit Jim Burress / WABE

The Great Recession proved to be rough for Christmas tree growers and sellers. But those who made it through believe this year could be the best they’ve seen since 2006.

There’s early evidence to back up the that theory. To see it, one only needs to spend a few minutes watching the busy crews at Big John’s Christmas tree lot in Buckhead.

A team led by Gary Algers, Big John’s tree inventory guru, is busy shaving off from the bottom of an already-cut Christmas tree. It’s what Algers calls shaping the tree’s “butt.”

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Local
5:57 am
Mon December 8, 2014

Does The Arrest Of A Journalist During Atlanta's Ferguson Rally Point To Bigger Problems?

Two dozen people were arrested on Nov. 25 as they protested in downtown Atlanta the shooting death of Michael Brown. Now, Atlanta police are under the microscope. Some question if officers' actions that night indicate the department isn't properly following a federal court order.
Credit Ryan Nabulsi / twinlensatl.com

Tyson Paul was one of two dozen people arrested during a demonstration in downtown Atlanta the night of Nov. 25. As happened in other U.S. cities, protestors took to the streets to voice their anger at the non-indictment of a Ferguson, Mo. police officer in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

But unlike the others taken into custody, Paul’s arrest was captured on videotape. That’s because the 11Alive photojournalist let his camera roll as police put ties around his wrists and arrested him for disorderly conduct.

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Local
6:13 pm
Wed December 3, 2014

Emory to Monitor Patient Possibly Exposed to Ebola

A specialized treatment unit at Emory University is preparing to monitor a patient potentially exposed to Ebola in West Africa.
Credit Emory University Hospital

Emory University Hospital Wednesday said it will accept a patient into its Serious Communicable Diseases Unit -- one of just four such outfits in the U.S. -- who "may have been exposed to the Ebola virus."

In a press release, Emory Health Sciences said the person is an American health care worker who had been in West Africa.  The hospital will monitor the unnamed patient "to see if an infection has been acquired."

Emory declined to give a time of the patient's arrival or any further details.

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Features
12:46 pm
Wed December 3, 2014

Maria Saporta: Atlanta's Ferguson Demonstration More Peaceful than 1992 Rodney King Protests

Maria Saporta, seen here, says recent protests related to the Michael Brown case were more peaceful than those following the Rodney King verdict. Saporta says those protests, more than twenty years ago, were a wake-up call to Atlanta.
Credit Saporta report

Longtime Atlanta business reporter Maria Saporta remembers well the 1992 fallout from the Rodney King police beating verdict. 

She says the recent Ferguson rallies here in Atlanta recently saw, by comparison, were more peaceful.

(To hear the interview between Saporta and WABE's Jim Burress, click the 'listen' icon below.)

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Airlines and Aviation
8:31 am
Sun November 30, 2014

Busiest Travel Day of Year Full of Flyers' Faux Pas

The Sunday after Thanksgiving is traditionally the busiest travel day of the year. Experts say that has the potential to bring out the worst in people.
Credit Jim Burress / WABE

The Sunday after Thanksgiving is one of -- if not the busiest -- travel days of the year.

Hartsfield-Jackson International officials predicted more than 7-million passengers will pass through its gates during November, which includes the busy Thanksgiving travel period.  They expect today to bring the most travelers of the week.

That's a lot of people.  So if you're flying this travel season, chances are you’re going to run across fellow travelers who aren’t as, um, considerate as others.

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