The big travel weekend will feel like old times

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – With half of adults in the United States fully vaccinated against COVID-19, what is expected to be the busiest travel weekend since “the days before” the pandemic begins.

As a reminder, a federal mandate still requires the use of masks at the airport and on airplanes, regardless of vaccination status.

But the frenzy of activity tells the story. This Memorial Day holiday weekend, Miami International Airport is expected to reach pre-pandemic passenger numbers.

“We are actually only a few percentage points from where we were in 2019,” commented MIA’s Greg Chin. “115,000-120,000 passengers, which was a typical day before the pandemic.”

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport is forecasting more than 630,000 travelers between Wednesday and Tuesday, which “reflects the pre-pandemic levels of previous holiday weekend weekends.” FLL’s busiest days are expected to be Fridays and Mondays, with more than 97,000 travelers each day, airport officials said.

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The American Automobile Association says high traffic is expected Thursday through Monday. More than 37 million people will travel 50 miles or more, a 60% increase from last year.

That includes more than 2 million Floridians expected to take a trip, up 62% from last year, when fewer than 1.3 million residents traveled due to the pandemic.

“This summer will unleash a year-long pent-up demand as Americans anticipate the start of the season,” said Debbie Haas, AAA vice president of travel. “Travel bookings with AAA … have increased recently, setting the stage for what should be a busy holiday weekend and an exciting summer.”

“For many people, this will be their first summer vacation in two years and things will look a little different,” he added. “Due to the pandemic, many theme parks and hotels are operating at reduced capacity and some services are not currently available. Cruise lines also accept reservations, but their policies may vary depending on whether you are vaccinated. That’s why we encourage travelers to plan ahead and work with a trusted travel advisor to ensure they receive the best advice and the best value for their vacation. “

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Beyond road travelers, there is a great leap in those who take to the skies.

American Airlines is using the new VeriFLY app to speed up check-in for travel abroad, streamlining the variety or required forms of vaccination and COVID-19 testing.

“Because there are so many different requirements in different countries,” said Sylvia Rodríguez of American Airlines Customer Service.

MIA is one of the few international airports where American Airlines will create an expedited check-in lane for those already verified by the app.

Meanwhile, for some of the international visitors coming to Miami, a key attraction is MIA’s pop-up vaccination site offering Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

Uriel Livovsky flew here from Mexico City just for the one-dose vaccine. In his early 30s, he is not yet eligible for a home vaccination.

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“Other parts of the world are struggling with vaccine supplies,” explained John Holgerson, incident commander for the Florida Division of Emergency Management. “Here in the United States, our vaccine supply chain has been maximized, we have a lot, so it doesn’t surprise me that those who come to Miami want the vaccine.”

A J&J pop-up site is open Thursday through Sunday at MIA’s Concourse D, offering free vaccinations to anyone 18 and older from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. (The pop-up was extended to Saturday and Sunday because it was so popular Thursday. Click here for details).

On select dates in early June, the airport will offer Pfizer vaccines. That’s part of Miami-Dade County’s effort to make the COVID-19 vaccine more accessible to hospitality and tourism workers. Click here for more details.

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Airport officials say they have literally taken calls from visitors asking when the next vaccination site will be staying so they can plan their trips based on the opportunity.

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