DALLAS — Matthew Vohen chose a terrible weekend for his first-ever commercial airline trip.

The flight from Wisconsin to Corpus Christi was pleasant and the weekend visit with a friend along the Texas Gulf Coast and San Antonio was a joy. But the night before his return flight, Vohen began getting text messages from American Airlines.

First his 6:29 p.m. flight to DFW International Airport was delayed. Then it was canceled. He made it to Dallas on a late-night flight, but then he had to spend the night and didn’t return to Milwaukee until a day after he was originally scheduled to arrive, forcing him to miss work.

Little did Vohen know that both of Texas’ major airlines, Fort Worth-based American and Dallas-based Southwest, were in the midst of a seven-day stretch where thousands of flights would be canceled due to technical malfunctions, staffing issues and a basic struggle to ramp back up for a greater-than-expected surge in summer travelers.

“I loved my trip enough that I will probably do it again. In fact, I might even do it with American Airlines again,” said Vohen, a 26-year-old who works for a security firm. “The flight attendants and everything else has been great with their service. This is something they can’t control and I can’t control. I can’t blame it on them.”

Airline leaders hoping for a swift return to summer travel may be getting more than they bargained for after a year of persuading passengers that it’s safe to fly. Since summer travel season kicked off during Memorial Day weekend, the flying experience has been plagued by technical issues, staffing shortages at airlines and in airports, and heightened tensions in the air that have led to a record number of unruly-passenger complaints.

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Not only have American and Southwest had their troubles — so have smaller airlines such as Allegiant.

The travel pain continued Friday with Southwest canceling another 155 flights and delaying 682 more, nearly a quarter of all the flights on the company’s schedule.

There have been fights in airports, fights on airplanes, long lines, closed airport restaurants and a host of other growing pains right when the airline industry needs passengers the most.

It hasn’t deterred passengers, who have returned to air travel in the greatest numbers since the COVID-19 pandemic began. More than 2 million have passed through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints on seven days since June 11. While the number of airline passengers is still 23% below pre-COVID-19 levels, planes for U.S. airlines were about 87% full on average for the week ending June 20, according to industry trade organization Airlines 4 America.

On June 13, some 220,000 passengers came through DFW International Airport, which has been the nation’s second-busiest airport this year.

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The weekend of Vohen’s trip, American canceled hundreds of flights. The carrier blamed it on staffing backups from bad weather in much of the country in late May and June.

Dennis Tajer, a spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association, said the airline “may have bitten off more than they could chew” when it set a summer schedule 20% bigger than its competitors.

American’s unions for reservations agents and fleet workers, the employees who prep planes between flights, have complained about being understaffed and mandatory overtime.

To fix the problems, American said it was planning to reduce its schedule by 1% for the first half of July. It also agreed to a deal for limits on mandatory overtime with reservation agents.

“Our focus this summer — and always — is on delivering for our customers no matter the circumstance,” American Airlines spokeswoman Shannon Gilson said in a statement. “We never want to disappoint and feel these schedule adjustments will help ensure we can take good care of our customers and team members and minimize surprises at the airport.”

The canceled flights account for roughly 1% of American’s daily flights in July or roughly 72 flights per day, according to the company.

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Casey Murray, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, said all of the work groups at his airline are experiencing worker shortages and mandatory overtime.

“The aggressive network plan for June and July was concerning because we’re seeing shortages from top to bottom,” he said.

Southwest’s problems came from a pair of technical issues. First, the carrier’s weather data provider failed and the airline deemed it unsafe to fly for about two hours. Then, the next day, June 15, reservation software issues again sidelined flights. On the worst day, Southwest canceled more than 500 flights and more than 42% of its total operations were either canceled or delayed, according to aviation tracking website Flightaware.com.

Kelly Burns of Savannah, Georgia, was one such air traveler who ran into problems in May connecting on American Airlines through DFW on a flight to Harlingen to visit family. Her connecting flight to El Paso sat on the runway for 30 minutes before having to return to the gate with engine trouble. With no more flights from DFW to Harlingen that evening, she had to book a flight to Corpus Christi — more than three hours away by car — and ask her dad to pick her up.

Then came the text messages with delays. First, it was two hours, then four. Her flight, originally scheduled to leave DFW for Corpus Christi at 3 p.m., didn’t leave until 11.

“We asked for our luggage (in Corpus Christi) and the guy said it’s buried under five hours of luggage and they couldn’t get it for us,” Burns said. “The return trip was delays and undisclosed gate changes that had us running with only one minute to spare to get on the plane.”

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During the pandemic, airlines were historically reliable. Delays and cancellations fell, and there were fewer flights and less-crowded airplanes. Even weather issues during busy holiday periods went relatively smoothly.

Airlines, particularly American, were hoping for a smoother summer this year after operational difficulties in 2018 from a dispute with mechanics and strains in 2019 from the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX.

And with vaccine distribution ramping up this spring, travel industry officials eagerly awaited passengers to return during the summer peak, even if some segments such as business and international flying were still subdued.

But airports have struggled to get enough workers to staff restaurants and push wheelchairs. American blamed some of its delays on issues with contractors.

The Chick-fil-A at Dallas Love Field has been closing at 2:30 p.m. in recent weeks because the operator can’t get enough workers to staff the restaurant, said airport director of operations Mark Duebner.

Canceled flights and closed concessions are inconvenient, but passengers being unruly can be dangerous. Federal aviation and security regulators are seeing an abnormally high number of “misbehavior” complaints. The FAA has received more than 3,100 complaints about unruly passengers so far this year, with about 2,350 of those stemming from passengers refusing to wear face masks.

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TSA said Thursday that it would restart self-defense training for flight attendants and pilots, an optional program that was put on hold during the pandemic.

“With unruly passenger incidents on the rise, TSA remains committed to equip flight crews with another tool to keep our skies safe,” the agency said in a release.

TSA said passengers going through checkpoints in Louisville, Kentucky, and Denver assaulted security agents this month. The passenger in Denver allegedly bit two agents, and the incident is under investigation.

Passengers are struggling to readjust to the norms of flying after a year away or with near-empty airports, said Steve Karoly, a former assistant TSA administrator who now works for airport security contractor K2 Security in Bethesda, Maryland.

“Everybody gets stressed out with flying, that’s just the way it is,” Karoly said. “But a lot of people haven’t flown in a long time or been in crowded places like an airport.”

And passengers have adjusted to security changes before, from the security lines installed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to taking off shoes at checkpoints.

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“This will all peter out eventually,” Karoly said. “A lot of the problems would be fixed if passengers showed up earlier to give themselves more time to get through the process without any stress.”

Despite the rash of delays, cancellations and planes being turned around because of unruly passengers, the travel experience is returning to normal, said travel blogger Brett Snyder of Crankyflier.com.

“All the problems with bad behavior and cancellations, it’s still a very tiny fraction of the overall flights,” Snyder said. “In general it’s getting back to normal, and if you remember, normal is sometimes good and sometimes bad.”

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(Dallas Morning News staff writer Krista Torralva contributed to this report.)