16:22 PM

Traveling this summer? Plan an extra couple hours into your arrival time

Leisure travelers are returning to the skies, and TPA is seeing longer lines than usual.

Air travel is back in a big way at Tampa International Airport, and passengers are feeling it in the longer lines at TSA checkpoints, coffee stands and other areas that seemed to move much faster before the pandemic.

While certain times during the day are less busy than others, TPA officials recommend getting to the Airport at least two hours before departure – a big change for regular TPA travelers who were used to making it from parking to gate in under 20 minutes. In recent months, TPA operations staff members have seen several passengers miss flights because they weren’t expecting the longer lines on the way to catching their flights.

The reasons for the slower or longer lines are threefold.

First, many of the airlines have reconfigured their schedules and routes to accommodate a larger percentage of leisure travel while business travel returns at a much slower pace. This means fewer pre-dawn or late night weekday flights, which are more commonly used by business travelers, and more midday and weekend flights. With several flights departing on similar schedules, the influx of passengers showing up and trying to get to their Airside terminals at the same time is causing larger crowds to gather at shuttles, checkpoints and even restrooms.

Second, leisure travelers tend to move at a … well, a more leisurely pace than business travelers. While those flying for work tend to have very little luggage and move more efficiently through airports and TSA Pre-Check lines, the leisure traveler often brings more luggage, perhaps has kids in tow and is in a more slow-paced vacation mode.

Finally, airports around the country – including at TPA – are still experiencing a labor shortage as they work to fill positions in shops, restaurants, airlines, rental car companies, the TSA and other tenants that help things run smoothly for travelers. This can cause slowdowns at certain points of the day, whether it’s at a Starbucks line or a checkpoint.

While TPA officials believe the timing issues are temporary until airline and staffing schedules return to a more pre-pandemic normalcy, passengers should plan to come to the Airport early.

And if you don’t experience long waits and get to your gate early? Consider yourself lucky, grab a bite to eat or a cold cocktail and relax while you wait to board your flights.