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Coronavirus Is Creating A Cargo Flight Boom At Miami International Airport

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - While passenger traffic at Miami International Airport may be down about 90 percent, according to Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, air cargo traffic is booming.

Crews who work in the airport's cargo area have been busier than ever due in part to the coronavirus pandemic.

"It's a little bit of everything, really. I mean one, it's the seed season, one is Mother's Day, but also we are seeing more flights associated with bringing in additional pharmaceuticals and PPE and so forth," said Emir Pineda, manager for Aviation Trade and Logistics Marketing at the airport.

With the number of passenger flights down, the number of cargo flights has risen.

"We saw a slight decrease in cargo flights in March, but they have been up in April," according to Greg Chin, the airport's Communications and Digital Marketing Division Director.

Airport officials said any cargo that could have potentially made its way over on a passenger flight now comes over on cargo planes.

"In the last 20 days, April 1st through April 20th, in that time period we've had more flights, four percent more flights than we did last year during this time," said Pineda.

With Mother's Day around the corner, the coronavirus hasn't stopped the demand for flowers.

"People are still wanting to order flowers for their grandparents, their moms, a lot of people are still in isolation," said Pineda.

Flowers are Miami International Airport's top import in tonnage with more than 230,000 tons imported annually, valued at more than $1 billion, according to Chin.

On Thursday, Customs and Border Protection agents inspected those flowers for pests. Assistant Port Director for Agricultural Operations, Marisol Perez, said her job is now more important than ever.

"More than ever now during the pandemic, where food is so important, we need to protect our local food, and also the food that we eat and we bring home from the supermarket," said Perez.

Airport officials said they normally see up to 150 cargo planes coming and going a day, now they're seeing about 170 cargo planes every day.

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