By Hank Tester

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Air travel this holiday season is expected to be about half of what it was last year because of the COVID pandemic.

Still, more flights will be taking off from Miami International Airport than in months past.

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“This Thanksgiving holiday a 15% increase in system wide – 3,100 for the holiday weekend,” said Sylvia Rodriguez with American Airlines.

That’s 15% more than what has been the new normal for the past eight months.

The airline is doing its best to quell “the fear of flying,” so the company held a demonstration on Monday of cleaning procedures aboard all American Airlines passenger jets.

It includes spraying disinfectant and installing high efficiency HEPA air filters. In fact, American says they clean key “touch points” that customers encounter when they enter the airport until they are seated on their flight.

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“What we tell our customers is you are in better hands in an airport, traveling through an airport, with all the initiatives we have in place, you are safer than in a super market or grocery store,” Rodriguez said.

That statement that catching COVID on an airplane is low is backed by research by the International Air Transport Association. Since the start of 2020, only 44 cases of COVID have been traced to on board transmission.

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A reminder, though, that flying to foreign countries, including the Caribbean, is now COVID complicated. Each country requires certain documentation and procedure to screen out passengers with potential COVID exposure. It can produce a lengthy preflight procedure.

“We have set up a system where the passenger will be sent to a desk with their documents that are required by the country they are traveling to. They will be verified. Once they are verified, they go to another area where they verify passports and check their luggage,” Rodriguez explained.

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AAA, in their all-inclusive travel survey, predicted that air travel this thanksgiving compared to last will be down almost 50%.