MIAMI (CBSMiami) — If you’re traveling over the holiday weekend, airport officials have three words for you “get there early.”

According to AAA, airports across the country, including here in South Florida, will see near pre-pandemic levels of travelers.

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AAA predicts more than 53 million Americans are expected to travel over the holiday weekend, pointing to a sharp rebound in Thanksgiving travel.

The busy holiday travel season kicks off Friday, November 19, and runs until the weekend after Thanksgiving.

At Miami International Airport, longs lines began to form as early 5:30 a.m. Friday, the first day of the expected holiday travel rush.

“This was a surprise, I think everybody is surprised for this long [line],” said Melanie Noreaga, traveling to Puerto Rico.

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Anxious passengers at MIA expressed confusion at the long lines, telling CBS4 News they were directed to go to TSA checkpoint three to check-in for all gates. At the time, two other available check-in points had not opened yet.

Travelers who arrived at least two hours early that were stuck in long lines before TSA opened additional screening areas, told CBS4 News they were nervous about getting to their flights on time despite their early arrival.

“We did, but it’s ridiculous,” said Ralph Hernandez, who was headed to Cancun. “It’s ridiculous because they have two other checkpoints that they are not using and they’re sending everybody here. It doesn’t make sense” added Hernandez.

Just before 6:30 am TSA officials at MIA opened up another checkpoint for general passengers for all gates, creating less congestion at checkpoint three.

Travelers that spoke to CBS4 News say prior to the opening of other TSA checkpoints, the lines they saw were the longest they’ve ever since while traveling.

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“Yeah, I’ve never seen it like this before this is a first for me,” said Noreaga.

Deborah Souverain