It’s hard to believe but South Florida airports that were once ghost towns are flying high once again. Spring breakers are heading this way, but so are lots of others out for a run in the sun after a year of being in the COVID deep freeze.
Tanisha Williams and Alexis Oliver call Virginia home, but they came off their flight at MIA and made a break for the door.
“Richmond is cold and raining. So, this is different for us right now so we are going to enjoy it," Williams said.
That’s the thought for the thousands that are now pouring through South Florida’s airports. One day at MIA in 2020, only 3,500 passengers were flying. Earlier this week almost 90,000 showed up in one day – approaching the 110,000 daily number prior to the pandemic.
"We’re very glad to see the traffic come back and to see safe travel come back," said airport spokesman Greg Chin. "We are seeing the highest numbers that we have seen since the pandemic."
NBC 6 hasn’t seen this at Miami International Airport for a year -- the line for security checkpoint three went back a few blocks before you go inside. Then you have to snake around to finally get up to the front and present your identification to the TSA officer.
“Traveling wasn’t a second thought, it was just what hotels or resorts are going to be open and what it's going to be like when you get here," said Jason Swanson, who is from Iowa. "Everyone is wearing their mask and it hasn’t been a big deal here either.”
At Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, there has been a similar increase in passengers with the numbers up 21% from last month to March.
“Our airline at the Miami hub will have almost its full schedule," said Juan Carlos Liscano, who runs American’s operation at MIA. "We actually will have 16% more seats than we did in 2019."
More passengers at the airports means tourists are booking hotels and heading to restaurants.
“Tourism drives the economy locally here of course," Chin said. "Drives business revenue, drives tourism spending, hotel stays, spending in the community -- so this is huge for our community to see travel come back and we want to encourage safe travel of course.”
Those showing up aren’t calculating any marketing data. For them, let the good times roll. Alexis Oliver said while laughing ,
“Right now we are going to go get checked in and we are going to go jet skiing first, stay around the water the whole time," Alexis Oliver said, laughing. "That’s going to be the plan. From the volume of passengers at the airports, that’s the plan lots of visitors have."