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What pandemic? Miami airport sets Thanksgiving travel record

December 14, 2021 GMT
People walk outside of the Miami Beach Convention Center after being cleared by a COVID-19 health check during the VIP preview of Art Basel Miami Beach, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, in Miami Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
People walk outside of the Miami Beach Convention Center after being cleared by a COVID-19 health check during the VIP preview of Art Basel Miami Beach, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, in Miami Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
People walk outside of the Miami Beach Convention Center after being cleared by a COVID-19 health check during the VIP preview of Art Basel Miami Beach, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, in Miami Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
People walk outside of the Miami Beach Convention Center after being cleared by a COVID-19 health check during the VIP preview of Art Basel Miami Beach, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, in Miami Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
People walk outside of the Miami Beach Convention Center after being cleared by a COVID-19 health check during the VIP preview of Art Basel Miami Beach, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, in Miami Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

MIAMI (AP) — Miami International Airport is finally seeing more passengers than it served before the pandemic, and set new records for Thanksgiving holiday travel despite growing concerns about the spread of the omicron variant.

About 3.9 million passengers passed through security last month, a 6% rise from 3.7 million ticketed passengers in November 2019, airport officials said Monday.

It’s a clear indicator that tourism is rebounding despite mounting worries of a new surge in hospitalizations from COVID-19, which has already killed about 800,000 people in the U.S. alone, the Miami Herald reported.

“The airport data is certainly a positive sign, but there’s a fair amount of apprehension among travelers who are scientifically literate,” said Gary Deel, a travel industry consultant based in the Orlando area, told the Herald. “Until we reach a level of hard immunity in the U.S., with the newest wave of news coverage of each variant, you’re going to see dips in travel that correlate with the rises of new variants.”

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Some travelers could potentially be discouraged by public health requirements, such as the recent U.S. requirement for international travelers presenting negative COVID-19 tests within one day of their flights, Deel said.

Miami is one of the top search destinations on travel websites and statewide, Florida had 32.5 million travelers from July to September of this year, exceeding the number of visitors during that period in pre-pandemic 2019, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said recently.

His anti-lockdown and pro-business stance enabled one of Florida’s main economic engines to flourish even as tourism dropped in other parts of the country.

Thanksgiving holiday travel, the full return of Miami Art Week and the end of U.S. travel restrictions for non-U.S. citizens coming from 33 countries helped boost November numbers. On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, the airport recorded its busiest day on record with 164,000 passengers. And during the entire 12-day Thanksgiving travel period, 1.7 million passengers passed through the airport, 14% more than the same period in 2019.

The airport expects record-high passenger volume to continue through December, the Herald reported. The average number of daily departing flights is up almost 12% compared to December 2019. And the airport recorded its second-busiest day on Sunday, with 163,000 passengers, officials said.