Sneak peek: Coronavirus prompts changes at MIA

Safety protocols include plastic shields at gate counters, face covering and social distancing reminders

MIAMI, Fla. – The future of flying in the era of COVID-19 is prompting big safety precautions. At Miami International Airport, there are plenty of changes in the works.

When you decide to book your next trip and get your travel plans in order, if that includes a trip to the airport, here is a sneak peek at some of the safety protocols that will greet you upon arrival at MIA, known for decades as one of the busiest airports in the world. There are over 80 airlines serving MIA to approximately 150 destinations around the globe. But with the COVID-19 pandemic, MIA like others around the world are not as busy. But, they are getting ready.

There are COVID-19 shields at gate counters, border pass podiums and ticket counters. They are setting up sanitation stations and putting into practice what they say is “an aggressive cleaning schedule.”

Over the intercom system throughout the terminals, the voice of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez reminds travelers about social distancing protocols, such as wearing face coverings and standing six-feet apart, even while waiting to go through TSA screening lines.

Be prepared for the TSA Agent to ask that you lift your face covering, however, to check against your photo ID.

Economists say that consumer confidence will play a big role during recovery. We saw a passenger at MIA wearing head to toe PPE, but he won’t be alone ⁠— many fliers will be taking their personal protection quite seriously.

Inside the international flights terminal, Clay Morrow, a college student on his way home to Sweden, was one of the few waiting to catch a flight.

"It’s pretty surreal, definitely like a ghost town," Morrow said.

But this is what being 95 percent down in passenger traffic looks like. On May 14, 2020 the total amount of U.S. fliers screened by TSA was 234,928 compared with a whopping 2,611,324 a year ago at the same time, according to data from the Transportation Security Administration.

(See the TSA stats here)

On the passenger data side at MIA, their stats show that they are currently serving 5,000 to 8,000 passengers. Pre-pandemic, that was between 120,000 to 130,000 passengers.

But there are a few bright spots. MIA’s interior designers Robert Hemingway said the below normal fliers in the terminals comes with an up-side. Their project of upgrading all of Terminal G with new flooring is now two weeks ahead of schedule. They are replacing old carpeting with new luxury vinyl tile. Due to the low foot traffic, crews can work on the flooring during business hours. Originally, the work would have to be done overnight, from the time the last flight left at night into the early morning start. Hemingway said now they have full working days.

It's just one of the improvement projects wrapping up in record time.

“They’ll be like, ‘Wow, during this time (when) no one was here, things got done.’ We re hoping to get that feedback from our passengers later on,” Hemingway said.

A bright spot, too, for MIA is the cargo business. Due to a spike in e-commerce and the global demand for medical supplies, cargo traffic is up by 40 percent.

About the Author:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."