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JFK Airport Quieter Ahead Of Christmas As Fewer Travel For Holidays

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Dec. 23 is normally a big day for holiday travel, but things were definitely quieter out there Wednesday.

Crowds were much smaller at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged Americans not to travel for the holidays, but people who spoke to CBS2's Alice Gainer didn't have any hesitation about getting on a plane.

As travelers arrived from Florida and Colorado, enhanced cleaning was going on all around them.

"They're mopping the walls. I've never seen anyone mop a wall," one traveler said.


"Very clean, very nice and neat, a lot of hand sanitizer when you go into the plane," said Yokaira Rosaroa, of the Bronx.

"The two times I was in the bathroom, there's always somebody there tending to it, making sure everything was clean," another traveler said.

Watch Alice Gainer's report --

ABM Industries showed CBS2 how they disinfect the terminal with electrostatic sprayers and multiple wipe-downs of high-touch surfaces.

Travelers also noticed something else.

"Way less people than I'm used to and went straight through security, easy," said James Anderson, of Boulder, Colorado.

"I travel every single year. I come back home to see my family in New York, and this has been the easiest experience we've had so far. There's half the capacity on the plane or less," said Mark Koenig, of Denver.

Not every traveler had the same experience, however. Some said with fewer flights, planes were packed.

"For COVID, that was just too close for comfort. I couldn't move, hardly," one traveler said.

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AAA is predicting at least 34 million fewer travelers compared to last holiday season, but as many as 84.5 million may still travel from Wednesday through Jan. 3, a decline of 29%.

CBS travel editor Peter Greenberg shared his tips for trying to stay safe in the air and at the terminal.

"I have the air nozzle above me in the full on position, pointing downwards. I'm not on the plane to eat food or drink. I'm on a plane to go from point A to point B," he said. "When you get to the airport, don't stand in line, and if you're going to stand in line, make sure you're doing a six feet of separation. Wear a double mask, and then when you get to your gate, you know what the gate is, that doesn't mean you have to wait at the gate. Wait two gates away where there's nobody there."

His most important tip?

"It's a great time of year for all of the right reasons not to go anywhere for the next month," Greenberg said.

It appears more people are hitting the road, taking trips closer to home.

RELATED STORY: Mayor De Blasio Says All Travelers From U.K. Must Quarantine, Or Potentially Face $1,000 Fine

Meanwhile, at malls in the Tri-State Area, some were surprised to find crowds in the time of COVID.

"Can't even find a parking spot. It took me 15 minutes to find a parking spot," Rupesh Tailor, of Passaic, New Jersey, said.

Tailor says it was even worse inside.

"Chaos, like bizarre. It was packed. I was in there 20 minutes, and I quickly came out," he said.

"The stores are keeping a cap on the amount of people that could be in there, so we had to wait outside some stores," said Peter Roelke, of Madison, New Jersey.

"It's a little concerning, to be honest," said Kiera Haemmerle, of Florham Park, New Jersey.

That's why Haemmerle and her sister plan to celebrate with immediate family only, keeping Christmas simple and small.

"Our parents and us and our dog, so we're just trying to stay as safe as possible," Haemmerle told CBS2's Jessica Layton.

Alice Gainer and Jessica Layton contributed to this report.


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