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Maine feels airline struggles as summer surge hits

TSA checked in 2.4 million people nationwide on June 17, the largest number of fliers so far in 2022.

PORTLAND, Maine — Summer begins on June 21, and with it so does another challenge for the airline industry.

According to the tracking service FlightAware, 1,700 flights were canceled last Thursday, 1,000 by the afternoon on Friday, and 859 on Saturday. 

Meanwhile, the Transportation Security Administration checked in 2.4 million passengers Friday ahead of the holiday weekend with Father's Day and Juneteenth, the largest total in a single day so far in 2022.

"Whether you’re booking airfare, hotel, or car rental, there’s a lot of demand on those services right now," Pat Moody with AAA Northern New England said. 

With the July 4 holiday weekend just two weeks away, AAA predicts 47.9 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home that weekend.

Even with the average price of regular gas in Maine hovering above $5, Moody said many travelers are choosing to drive to their destination if they consider it a reasonable distance because they can better determine whether or not they arrive on time, rather than take their chances with flights.

But not everyone has that option.

Danny Jones drove to Portland International Jetport from Ellsworth to pick up his wife, who was delayed coming in from New Jersey. 

"When she left she had no problems," Jones remarked as he and his son sat in his truck in the airport parking garage. "But, coming back, she has massive delays and she wasn’t even sure she was gonna get out."

Jones said he was already "very" concerned about their next trip to Louisiana as a family on Saturday, which is out of driving range.

For those who are able, Moody said planning extra time and flexibility into a flight could save headaches later on.

"If you have something you need to attend, like a wedding or something that’s based on a date, build yourself in a buffer," Moody said. "Try to take a nonstop flight if possible. And, also, booking flights earlier in the day. Usually, the first flights of the day are less likely to be delayed or canceled."

However, sometimes, nothing beats good fortune.

Joe Sloan and Baldwin Tidmore just landed from Atlanta Monday afternoon. Over the weekend they sat at home and watched cancellations and delays roll in, day after day. But on the day of their flight, they made it without any issues. 

"We got lucky," Sloan said.

"Ours had no problems," Tidmore added regarding their trip.

Happy to be on the ground, the two were on the hunt for lunch.

"We’re looking forward to lobster," Sloan smiled.

"Yes," Tidmore beamed. "That's all we're gonna eat."

The pair decided they wouldn't worry about their Thursday return flight until the day of.

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