Benefits of traveling for holidays outweigh the risks, passengers at MIA say

MIAMI – For so many families, it’s been a real dilemma deciding whether or not to travel this Thanksgiving.

The number of coronavirus cases continues to soar throughout the nation, but travelers at Miami International Airport on Wednesday told Local 10 News that they feel the benefits of traveling outweigh the risks.

Carina Zaldivar and her boyfriend left Miami for Washington, D.C. Wednesday morning to see her siblings for Thanksgiving. But she said traveling during the pandemic was a difficult decision.

“It’s a little nerve-wracking, but just taking all the precautions, you know, making sure we stay our distance as much as we can,” she said.

Officials at Miami International Airport are expecting 60,000 travelers on Wednesday. That’s less than half the number of travelers the day before Thanksgiving last year, meaning the planes aren’t as full.

“I think they said 70% now of the flight is going to be booked, and then 30% is not,” one woman said.

To stay safe, travelers are taking extra steps, like wearing gloves and double masks.

“We wore the N95s today,” one passenger said. “We chose to go a little extra protective and wear the shields, so this way, we won’t touch our face.”

But not everyone at the airport was wearing a mask, and it’s hard to social distance when you’re standing in a crowd of strangers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the safest bet is to stay home this holiday, but travelers like Zaldivar say they’re willing to risk exposing themselves to the virus to see their loved ones.

“We mostly did it just because my brother was based out of the country for a long time and he’s finally in the states, so we took advantage. Now we’re going to see him,” she said.

Another social distancing issue came as passengers boarded a Jet Blue flight out of Fort Lauderdale, heading towards Jamaica.

Jaime Aird recorded cell phone video as he complained to flight attendants, saying he wanted to sit by himself.

He handed over his credit card for an upgrade to sit alone in the emergency row, but moments later he was forced off the plane.

“There was no reason to throw me off the plane, embarrass me in that manner,” Aird told Local 10. “It’s been a traumatizing experience.”

Local 10 reached out to Jet Blue regarding the incident, and the airline issued a statement that read:

“We ask our customers who wish to spread out to first speak with a crew member to discuss their options. The customer in this incident has been rebooked at no charge, as we are looking into his concerns to ensure our policies are properly followed.”

With Christmas approaching, travel decision-making is going to be on a lot of people’s minds next month, as well.

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