Millions of U.S. travelers are forging ahead with their holiday plans, despite a national surge in coronavirus cases fueled by the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
More than 109 million Americans are expected to travel between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2, a 34 percent increase from last year, according to AAA. The number of airline passengers alone is projected to rise 184 percent from last year.
And airport personnel are bracing for trouble. At Miami International Airport, which is expecting a record number of passengers for the holiday season, two men were arrested on Monday after the authorities said they clashed with police officers.
The men — Mayfrer Gregorio Serranopaca, 30, of Kissimmee, Fla., and Alberto YanezSuarez, 32, of Odessa, Texas — were each charged with battery on a law enforcement officer, according to the Miami-Dade Police Department, which is investigating the episode. Mr. Serranopaca also faces additional charges, including resisting an officer with violence and inciting a riot.
“Like airports across the country, MIA is seeing record-high passenger numbers this winter travel season,” Ralph Cutié, the airport’s director and chief executive officer, said in a statement.
The Miami airport said it expected about 2.6 million travelers — an average of about 156,000 per day — to pass through its gates from Tuesday through Jan. 6, an increase of 6 percent over the same period in 2019.
“Unfortunately, that passenger growth has come with a record-high increase nationwide in bad behavior as well,” Mr. Cutié said, noting the altercation at the airport on Monday.
Disruptive passengers could face arrest, civil penalties up to $37,000, being barred from flying and possible federal prosecution, Mr. Cutié said.
He urged people to travel responsibly “by getting to the airport extra early, being patient, complying with the federal mask law and airport staff, limiting your alcohol consumption and notifying police at the first sign of bad behavior by calling 911.”