TAMPA, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – Tampa International Airport isn’t immune from the COVID-19 staffing shortage that has affected many businesses across the country. As regulations begin to relax and more people are getting vaccinated, the growing amount of travelers is forcing TPA to adapt.

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More than 10 million COVID-19 vaccinations have been administered across the state of Florida and many of them are itching to travel again. TPA’s spokesperson Emily Nipps says they’re expecting a very busy travel season, but to ensure the safety of all travelers, they plan to maintain a number of COVID-19 protocols.

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One of those travelers is Special Effects and Make-Up Artist, Jason Baker, who says the change he saw was immediate. “Once the vaccine rollout happen, it felt like overnight… all of a sudden it went from maybe fifteen to twenty people on a plane to getting on full flights.” He says that wasn’t the case a year ago. “May of last year, during that time… it was like a zombie apocalypse.”

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As those previously vacant seats begin to fill, TPA says they will still maintain a focus on social distancing, hand washing and mask wearing. Nipps explains, “Some people think we are a mask-free state…they land at the airport… they take their mask off… we want to encourage people to continue wearing your mask at the airport until the federal mandate is lifted.”

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While more travelers passing through the terminals of TPA is a good thing, there are also side-effects. Nipps says at “Tampa International Airport, we employ more than 9,000 people across the airport campus. We are seeing the same labor shortage that everyone else is seeing.” While officials are doing everything they can to fill those job vacancies to provide the best experience possible, the lines at TSA have grown longer, adding, “A lot of people are used to getting through the airport very quickly it’s a very easy and convenient airport to get through… right now it’s a little bit more difficult.” 

Baker, a frequent traveler says the only answer is patience. “I know that TSA and everybody is doing the best job that they possible can but they’re just short staffed… it’s just how it is.” Since the amount of travelers has increased, he also suggests arriving even earlier than the suggested time. “They tell you two hours… show up two and a half hours early.”
While the lines are a headache for many, Baker sees it as a good sign of a return to normalcy. “I think having people travel again is good, it’s getting people back to normal. I think it’s just reminding people that there’s a big, beautiful world out there. And I think as long as they follow the restrictions and regulations to whatever state/country has set for them — I don’t see a problem.”