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TPA gears up for busiest summer on-record

Memorial Day weekend is its first test with roughly up to 250,000 people estimated to pass through the airport the next few days.

TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa International Airport officials said it's expecting this summer to be its busiest yet.

Already, the spring break period in March and April set a new record, according to Adam Bouchard, TPA's vice president of operations.

"We're excited for a busy summer. We're expecting to set records this year," Bouchard said.

Bouchard said between 200,000 and 250,000 people could be traveling through TPA from Thursday to Memorial Day. In anticipation of the high demand, TPA already added extra routes and seat capacity. 

The airport is expecting as many as 90,000 people on the weekends.

Visitors like Candace Ostheimer of Dallas, who lived in Florida previously, said she's relieved she booked a flight earlier during the day to avoid the hassle.

"I did have to get up at the crack of dawn but I made it here," Ostheimer said. "It was pretty smooth getting in and out."

Busy summer travel nationwide is prompting some to question how airline companies will handle cancellations or delays. 

Last summer included some delays, not weather-related, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Then there's the winter break fiasco from Southwest Airlines that altered many holiday plans.

This month, President Joe Biden vowed to create new rules that would require airlines to compensate passengers for preventable disruptions. That would apply to hotel, meals and re-booking fees, for instance. Cashback would also be a possibility.

While several airlines already state they voluntarily provide most of what's being mandated, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg told CBS News, "I guess I would say if they're already doing this, then they shouldn't mind us making a rule."

TPA recommends passengers arrive two hours before any domestic flights. Staff also recommend passengers use its Blue Express Curbsides to save time for those not planning to check a bag.

The airport also provides online booking for parking and most recently, added TPA To Go, powered by Uber Eats, which allows passengers to order ahead.

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