air travel

South Florida Airports Preparing for Influx of Memorial Day Travelers

The number of people coming through Miami and Fort Lauderdale international airports in recent days matches the flying level of before COVID-19.

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These days at Miami International Airport, you wouldn't have any idea that we are coming out of a pandemic.

The planes are full, and airlines are bringing in people ready for fun in the sun for Memorial Day weekend -- and that translates into good news for businesses across South Florida. 

Diego Martinez, who flew in from Costa Rica, says he is all about having a great time over the next few days shopping and visiting his family. 

He’s about efficiency, too. Shortly after he landed, Martinez got his COVID-19 vaccination Thursday at the airport.

“The main reason for coming was getting the shot, so I already made it,” Martinez said.

Lots of others followed Martinez's plan. Maria Gil arrived from Mexico and got her shot, too.

“Well I just arrived here and I heard them speaking that they were offering the vaccine," Gil said. Passengers like her scooped up their bags, got a shot, and headed for South Florida's beaches, restaurants and bars.  

The number of people coming through Miami International Airport in recent days matches the level flying before anyone ever heard of COVID-19, officials said.

“We are thrilled. So, we had something we hadn’t had since pre-pandemic since 2019, which is a day of travel that’s higher than we’ve had since 2019," said MIA spokesperson Greg Chin. "The first time last Sunday, we expect more of that this weekend. So, we are finally back to growing and adding more passengers."

It's the same situation at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport -- the volume of passengers flying is back to what it was before the pandemic. FLL expects about 90,000 passengers a day over the Memorial Day weekend.  

South Florida’s largest airline American Airlines is rolling out an app where travelers can upload COVID-19 testing and vaccination documents for travel to places where the paperwork is required.

“We have one that’s called VERIFLY.  You download that on your phone and you are able to upload into that just by taking a picture and sending it through your COVID requirements," said Sylvia Rodriguez with American Airlines. "Then you get expedited when you go to check in with bags, and we move your right up to the front of the line."

American says it's adding extra workers and opened up another one of its Admiral Club locations near gate 15.

According to the Transportation Security Administration, the average wait at MIA is 10 minutes, but that could grow to 20 minutes in peak times.

“We’ve made sure that our lanes are open, and that they are open at the times passengers are going to be showing up, and we’re doing everything we can to get the word out to people to pack smart,” said Dan Ronin, security director with TSA.

The TSA says it's been hiring screeners as the number of travelers keeps increasing. At the end of the day, visitors here will be putting money in the pockets of ride-share drivers, restaurant workers and hotel employees.

Experts at MIA advise people to be patient if they're picking someone up since baggage claim traffic can build up.

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