Miami International Airport (MIA), one of the main tourist destinations in the United States, received the first fully vaccinated foreigners on Monday. Among them were 293 passengers of a flight of the German airline Lufthansa from Munich.
After more than a year and a half of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic, the United States reopened its land and air borders today to foreign travelers from countries on a list that includes the 26 European states in the Schengen area.
This afternoon, the atmosphere at the airport’s arrival terminals was bustling with the usual flow of passengers from Europe, and the arrival of tourists and travelers eager to reconnect with family members, as well as visa holders and nationals.
All international travelers presented proof of having the complete vaccination schedule and a negative PCR test carried out no more than three days before the flight.
At MIA, the roar of the engines of incoming and departing aircraft certified the beginning of the recovery of air traffic and normality, after the lifting of restrictions due to the outbreak of Covid-19.
One of the aircraft that touched down in Miami was a new-generation Airbus A350-900 equipped with the latest Lufthansa technology, the first to fly direct from Munich today under the new regulations.
“We are very proud to be back in Miami, very happy to be back. We are here to stay,” Thomas Jahn, captain of the Lufthansa flight from Munich, told the media in an airport terminal.
Surrounded by the entire crew, Jahn first thanked his team for their professionalism and skill and pointed out that the flight was almost full, with only five empty seats.
He added that it has been almost “20 months without a normal connection, as if someone had pressed the stop button,” but now “we are back (…) to such a Spanish destination (Miami)”, he said.
“La gente quiere volar” (People want to fly), Jahn added in Spanish.
Proof of this is MIA, which has surpassed Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and New York’s JFK as the number one destination for international flights.
In fact, MIA is the busiest international passenger airport in the United States so far this year, with 9 million of the 25 million passengers counted until last September, which is equivalent to 35% of the total passenger volume, according to figures from the airport to which the EFE agency had access.
For Silke Wobken, Lufthansa’s sales director for the eastern United States, this is a “historic moment of celebration” thanks to the “lifting of restrictions”. A celebration shared by other airlines such as British Airways, TAP Portugal or American Airlines (from Madrid and Paris the latter) that flew today to Miami also under the new measures.
Lufthansa will offer flights three times a week (Monday, Wednesday and Saturday) on its Airbus A350-900 from Miami to Munich, the only five-star airport in Europe. It will also operate at Orlando International Airport, in central Florida, three times a week.
“The United States is one of the Lufthansa Group’s most important markets outside of our home markets and we greatly value the far-reaching transatlantic relationship that remains a success story to this day,” Frank Naeve, Lufthansa Group vice president of sales for the Americas, said in a statement.
For its part, the MIA expects international traffic to clearly grow now that the government is allowing entry to all vaccinated foreigners from “more than 30 previously restricted countries to enter the country for the first time since early 2020.”
The drop in flights due to restrictions at MIA
Six of these countries, Brazil, United Kingdom, Spain, France, Germany and Italy, are among the “20 busiest international markets” at Miami International Airport, MIA highlighted, and recalled that international flights had fallen by 50% compared to 2019 due to the restrictions.
In the tourism sector, which is the largest job generator in Florida, the end of travel restrictions is expected to bring the long-awaited for post-pandemic recovery.
In the large area that covers part of two neighboring counties, Broward and Palm Beach, known as Greater Miami, tourism is the great generator of employment and in 2020 the arrival of visitors was reduced by 52% compared to 2019.
This ends the travel restrictions initially applied by former President Donald Trump (2017-2021), which were maintained by the current president, Joe Biden, who arrived at the White House last January.
The opening of borders comes shortly after the United States reached full vaccination of 70% of its adult population, and is already administering booster doses to those over 65 years of age.