Steve and Italy Spratt's Italian vacation was wonderful, but the journey to the Tuscan villa where they stayed and home again was not.

Steve and Italy Spratt's Italian vacation was wonderful, but the journey to the Tuscan villa where they stayed and home again was not.

Their litany of delays, canceled flights and lost luggage started the day Italy Spratt headed overseas with friends, continued when her husband joined her a few days later and wasn't over as they left the Medford airport terminal on their way home sans checked bags Friday.

With summer travel heating up, the troubles they had are likely to become more common.

Medford airport officials reported that early numbers show air travel is on pace for a record summer with passenger numbers already up 8 percent from this time last year.

Officials warn travelers to arrive early, especially for early morning flights, so they don't miss flights while waiting in line to get boarding passes or clear security.

People must arrive at least an hour and a half before their flight is set to depart.

With summer airline schedules, nine flights leave Medford between 5 and 7 a.m., meaning an estimated 400 passengers must clear ticketing and security in a short time, officials said. Travelers who miss early flights then crowd mid-morning and afternoon flights.

Italy Spratt made it out of Medford fine, but spent a long day in the baggage claim area at Los Angeles International Airport. She arrived on a Horizon flight from Medford at about 8 a.m., roughly 12 hours before her Air France departure to Europe. However, the Air France counter wasn't staffed and she couldn't get a boarding pass that would give her access to the departure area of the terminal until late afternoon.

Her flight was delayed, then finally cancelled, leaving airline employees scrambling to find accommodations and hand out vouchers to more than 300 tense passengers. Spratt, her friends and a few worried young women they had taken under their wings arrived at an airport Marriott around 11 p.m. only to learn that the hotel wasn't expecting them and didn't even accept the vouchers. Her group headed to another hotel, paid for their own rooms and demanded reimbursement from Air France the next day, when they finally winged their way to Europe.

Steve Spratt arrived in Europe nearly three days before his luggage did, a complication minimized by a well-packed carry on.

On the return trip, delays Thursday between Florence and Paris put the Spratts on a later flight out of Paris' Charles de Gaulle International Airport, so they missed their connecting flight from L.A. back to Medford.

"L.A. was the worst," Steve Spratt said. "It's embarrassing how bad it is."

He described having to go through two security checkpoints as an international traveler and facing massive lines — 200 yards long that caused some travelers to miss flights — at airline counters and security screenings.

"It was even worse than I am describing," he said. "We were tired and hungry.

"Travel is no fun anymore."

Larry Crowl, of Grants Pass, spends about three weeks a month traveling as part of his job as vice president of sales for a finance company.

He estimates that in the past nine months, about 40 percent of his trips have run into trouble of some sort — delays and lost luggage being the most common complication.

"The most irritating thing is when it's (the airline's) fault you're late, but they don't want to deal with you," Crowl said.

He said he always schedules an extra day for travel now and doesn't make other plans on that travel day. He prefers early morning flights that are less likely to be crowded with people who missed previous flights. Such flights also have a better chance of avoiding afternoon thunderstorms, potential summer problems when flying through Denver and Chicago. San Francisco often has to close a runway because of fog or wind, so flights through Portland can be a better choice to dodge weather delays, he advises.

Crowl remembers when airlines would make an extra effort to accommodate frequent fliers, warning them of delays and rerouting them, but he doesn't see the same level of customer care anymore.

"That's just the way it is," he said. "Travel used to be fun, but now it's pretty precarious."

Still, he noted, his flights Friday "went pretty good," and he arrived on time and with luggage.

Multiple other travelers arriving from Los Angeles and Portland just before noon on Friday also reported that their flights were problem-free.

Heading home to Charlotte, N.C., after visiting relatives in Medford for two weeks, the Champ family was hoping for an uneventful return trip flying from here to Salt Lake City to Charlotte.

"The trip here was long, but good," said Tabitha Champ, as she and her little brother, Mark, 5, waited with luggage while their mom returned a rental car. "We've missed connections to Medford before when we flew through San Francisco, but this time was OK."

Grinning shyly as he hung on a luggage cart, Mark said he likes flying.

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4485 or at aburke@mailtribune.com