An American Airlines jet makes its landing approach to the Portland International Jetport, flying above the Pink Lot, an overflow parking area nearly 2 miles from the airport terminal. The jetport has been grappling with a parking crunch as travelers leave their vehicles for longer periods, slowing the turnover of spaces. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Dulcie Welch wasn’t too happy when she arrived at the Portland International Jetport this week and learned that all long-term parking spaces were full.

Welch, who traveled with two co-workers, was directed to drive to the airport’s offsite Pink Lot nearly 2 miles away. Once parked at the overflow lot, the three women unloaded their luggage and boarded a shuttle bus back to the jetport, a process that added about 20 minutes to their check-in time for a flight to Georgia.

“I’m not upset,” the North Anson resident grumbled, looking down as she rolled a suitcase toward the shuttle. “It’s not worth getting upset over something you can’t do anything about, but it has put us behind.”

Welch and her co-workers are among a growing number of jetport passengers who have been caught unaware in recent weeks because the 2,325 long-term parking spaces at Maine’s largest airport have become increasingly precious and often unavailable. Travelers risk missing their flights if they don’t plan ahead for scarce parking, but that’s become a bit of a crap shoot as shuttles to the 400-space Pink Lot run more frequently.

“It does ebb and flow,” said Zachary Sundquist, assistant airport director. “We have 500 spaces available now, but that can shift fairly quickly.”



Jetport officials started seeing signs of a parking crunch last spring and posted a warning on the airport’s website in July, Sundquist said. Regular use of the Pink Lot at 150 District Road, off outer Congress Street, near Portland’s public works garages, picked up a few weeks ago.

Sundquist attributes the parking crunch to a post-pandemic shift in travel habits, including longer trips that have increased long-term parking times by 9% overall, he said. Passengers who have grown used to working remotely are more likely to mix business with pleasure when they take a trip – what Sundquist called “bleisure” travel. Long weekend escapes have evolved into whole weeks away.

“People are taking longer trips,” Sundquist said Tuesday. “When you take longer trips, you park longer. That same parking spot is getting a lot longer use.”

Long-term parking areas at the Portland International Jetport were full Monday afternoon, so travelers were directed to park at an offsite lot nearly 2 miles away and ride a shuttle bus to the airport. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

The number of outbound passengers also has increased steadily since the pandemic, with a 14.6% jump in total outbound travelers in June, July and August, from 345,021 passengers in 2022 to 395,602 passengers in 2023, Sundquist said. Passenger numbers seem poised to increase further as American Airlines announced Thursday that it will add nonstop service from the jetport to a sixth destination next June, with twice-daily flights to New York City’s LaGuardia Airport.

However, new carriers at the jetport aren’t really driving the increased parking demand, Sundquist said, noting that recently added Breeze and Sun Country airlines represent just 3% of passengers carried by all eight airlines operating there.

Still, jetport officials recognize passenger frustrations and have tried to inform travelers in advance of the parking crunch, with an amped-up yellow warning notice on the website and announcements on social media and local radio.


“We realize that when you plan on it, it’s a very different experience than when you get here and it’s a surprise,” Sundquist said. “And it’s a bigger challenge for some people who are returning to flight for the first time since the pandemic.”

Jetport officials also are working on a proposal to add a 734-space surface parking lot on a wooded parcel near the airport’s parking garage, adjacent to an Embassy Suites Hotel and between Jetport Boulevard and Loop Road.

The Portland City Council budgeted funds to design additional parking in 2020 and it’s happening now, Sundquist said. The lot would be within walking distance of the terminal along designated pathways, but shuttle service would be provided. If permitting with city and state agencies goes smoothly, construction of the new lot would begin in the spring.

In the meantime, the jetport website warns passengers to consider taking a taxi, Uber or Metro bus to the airport, or getting a ride from a friend or family member. It also suggests parking at the Pink Lot for $9 a day – much cheaper than $14 a day for long-term spaces at the airport.

“During busy times of the day, we reach garage capacity and passengers will be redirected to the Pink Lot,” the website states. “If you choose to park (at the Pink Lot), please add an additional 20 minutes to your arrival time.”

But travelers don’t always check the jetport’s parking status, including Tim Mercier, a Lisbon Falls resident who was flying to Virginia for work related to his job at Bath Iron Works.


“I didn’t know anything about the parking situation and I fly frequently,” he said. “I preregistered with the airline, so that may save me if there’s a delay.”

The last addition to parking at the airport was in 2008, when the former three-story garage was razed and the current five-story, 2,000-space garage was built, creating 400 additional spaces, Sundquist said.

The Pink Lot was established in 2016 for occasional overflow parking during busy periods, such as major holidays and spring break. It became a permanent option in 2019, then was closed during the pandemic. The jetport resumed using the offsite lot last fall, after the pandemic eased and more people began traveling again.

But several travelers this week said they were directed to the Pink Lot even though they saw many empty spots in long-term parking areas.

Waverly Deutsch, of Falmouth, boards a shuttle bus at the Pink Lot, an overflow parking area nearly 2 miles from the Portland International Jetport. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

“There were many open spots not being used,” said Waverly Deutsch, of Falmouth, a business consultant traveling to Chicago. “I’m not sure why we have to come this far away.”

Sundquist said the jetport cannot manage the availability of long-term spots as closely as passengers would like. Turnover can be quite random, and trying to operate shuttle service to the Pink Lot requires some consistency.

Moreover, he said, some spots that travelers think are open really aren’t, including the 576-space employee parking lot.

“We would like to be able to offer spots as they become available, but that’s just not feasible,” he said.

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