Thanksgiving travel: Pack your patience at South Florida airports

Airlines are working through staffing shortages, which could make for an even more challenging travel experience.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – The long lines could already be spotted inside Miami International Airport early Wednesday morning, as Thanksgiving travel is expected to reach pre-pandemic levels.

The extended wait times both inside and outside the busy airport remained through the evening.

Wait times to get through security checkpoints topped 30 minutes at certain times.

Airlines are also working through staffing shortages, which could make for an even more challenging travel experience.

“Oh god, not now, not today,” traveler Bridget Daniels said of her reaction when she saw the security line at MIA. “I got here early, just to try to avoid this. Instead, I ran into it.”

On Tuesday, the Transportation Security Administration said it screened 2,207,949 airline passengers at checkpoints across the country, which is about 91% of the pre-pandemic volume screened in 2019 for that same day of the week.

Goldwyn Harper, traveling to Pittsburgh to see his parents, said he planned on extra wait times.

“This is Thanksgiving. This is what you come to expect,” he said. “You just kind of sit through it and hopefully you get there, trying to be as considerate of everybody else. Everybody’s trying to go some place.”

Martin Enlund, in Miami from Los Angeles, said he has noticed an uptick in travelers over the last few weeks.

“Since Covid it has been quite calm. But after Thanksgiving, this weekend, it’s been quite busy for sure,” said Martin Enlund.

Parking is also available but limited in airport garages, MIA warned travelers.

Seven out of 10 Americans are expected to gather with friends and family for Thanksgiving, and health officials are urging everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated to protect against COVID-19.

There are concerns the holiday could fuel another surge in coronavirus cases, with new infections in the last month up 42% nationwide.

Many people are still traveling, seizing the opportunity to see family members for the first time in months — if not years.

“It’s been a long time, and then we have some family with some serious medical issues,” said Kelvin Darrough, who was at MIA on Wednesday morning. “And so we’re taking this time, we’re thankful that they’re here. And so we’re just going to make sure that we get a chance to see them.”

Mask mandates are still in effect at airports all over the country. Travelers should check with their airlines before heading to the airport.

Because of the large travel crowds, TSA recommends passengers arrive at least two and a half hours before domestic flights and three and a half hours before international flights.

About the Authors:

Janine Stanwood joined Local 10 News in February 2004 as an assignment editor. She is now a general assignment reporter. Before moving to South Florida from her Washington home, Janine was the senior legislative correspondent for a United States senator on Capitol Hill.

Trent Kelly is an award-winning multimedia journalist who joined the Local 10 News team in June 2018. Trent is no stranger to Florida. Born in Tampa, he attended the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he graduated with honors from the UF College of Journalism and Communications.