Heading to the airport? Crowds are back so TSA says get there 2 hours early

A year ago passenger traffic was down more than 90 percent at Miami International Airport, now travelers are back.

MIAMI, Fla. – AAA officials says travel has increased over Memorial Day weekend from last year because more Americans have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and consumer confidence is growing.

The auto club and insurance company said nearly 2.5 million Americans will take plane trips, nearly six times more than the same period in 2020.

Both Miami International Airport and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International anticipate numbers mirroring pre-pandemic levels. Joe Toby’s experience on an inbound flight from New York echoes what we are hearing from travel experts.

“I remember last year it was empty, now all seats are full,” Toby said.

Packed airplanes, long lines and bustling check-in counters and, as travel rebounds, TSA is warning passengers to allow extra time at the airport. Because of the uptick in travel, airlines are advising passengers to arrive two hours before their flight for domestic travel, which is usually advised at 90 minutes with international travel normally two hours prior to a flight taking off.

Flyers are still required to wear their masks, too, both at the airport and on airplanes regardless of your vaccination status.

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport has set up a COVID-19 testing site before passengers enter security in Terminal 3.

Miami International Airport is offering a Johnson & Johnson pop-up vaccination site, pre-security on the fourth floor through Sunday. Travelers we spoke with said they were excited that a trip to Miami provided an opportunity for them to get the one-dose shot.

John Holgerson, Florida Division of Emergency Management Incident Commander said: “It is not surprising given other parts of the world are struggling with vaccine supply.”

Frontier Airlines launched a new service to Jamaica with its inaugural flight on Friday.

And tourism officials said the increase in air travel is expected to help the region’s economic recovery. Bill Talbert of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau sees jobs, jobs, jobs as people flow into the city. “Travel and tourism in Miami is the Number One employer.”

This weekend could mark an economic rebound of the travel industry at a time when half of all U.S. adults are fully vaccinated.

“This is why the airport is open. This is why these new flights are happening and It is because of the vaccine,” Talbert said.

About the Authors:

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."

Michelle F. Solomon is the podcast producer/reporter/host of Local 10's original, true-crime podcast The Florida Files and a digital journalist for Local 10.com.