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Air travel hit a new high over the holiday. And so did the hassles, travelers say

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The July 4 holiday weekend is on track to be the busiest travel period since the start of the pandemic.AAA expects 3.5 million people to travel by plane, nearly triple the amount of people who flew this time last year. The 4th of July holiday weekend is on track to be the busiest travel period since the start of the pandemic. But more people traveling through the airport could mean more trouble for already struggling airlines. American and Southwest have had to cancel or delay thousands of flights over the last few weeks.

This summer is already shaping up to be a difficult one for air travelers.

Southwest Airlines customers have struggled with thousands of delays and hundreds of canceled flights in the past three weeks because of computer problems, staffing shortages and bad weather.

American Airlines is also grappling with a surge in delays, and it has trimmed its schedule through mid-July at least in part because it doesn't have enough pilots, according to the pilots' union.

At the same time, the number of Americans getting on planes is at a pandemic-era high. Just under 2.2 million travelers were screened at U.S. airports on Friday, the highest number since early March 2020. AAA predicted 3.5 million people would fly over the weekend.

Travelers are posting photos of long airport lines and describing painful flights.

"It was ridiculously crowded," Tracey Milligan said of airports after a round trip from her New Jersey home to Miami last week.

Milligan and her 6-year-old daughter endured hours-long delays on both legs of the trip. Before the flight to Florida, she said, JetBlue agents first told passengers there was a discrepancy with the plane's weight, then they were missing three crew members because the airline was short-staffed, then there was a weather delay.

"I really wanted to start screaming and cursing everybody out, but that doesn't get you anywhere, and security will come and remove you from the plane," she said.

At least the passengers on Milligan's flights kept their cool. Airlines have seen a surge in unruly passengers, and some experts predict it will get worse this summer as planes become even more crowded.

There have been more than a dozen days in June and July when more than 2 million travelers went through U.S. airports, according to figures from the Transportation Security Administration. Airlines say that domestic leisure travel is back to 2019 levels, although the lack of business travelers means that overall, the number of passengers over the past week is still down slightly compared with the same days in 2019.

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