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South Florida snowbirds cutting their winter stay short, flying home early because of coronavirus

Couple fears pandemic may become worse
Anita Wood and Don Wood
Posted at 6:19 PM, Mar 11, 2020

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- In South Florida, many snowbirds are scrambling to head home several weeks ahead of schedule over coronavirus concerns.

“We don’t want to be stuck down here,” said Anita Wood.

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For the past four months, Don and Anita Wood have been soaking in the South Florida sun. They’ve been spending the winter in West Palm Beach for 17 years.

However, the threat of the coronavirus has them heading back to Toronto early for the first time.

“We’re just concerned the pandemic may become worse, and we won’t be able to get a flight back home, and we don’t want to drive,” Anita Wood said.

“We’d like to leave in about two or three days,” said Don Wood.

The couple has tickets to leave near the end of April, but travel experts say they are one of many snowbirds trying to push up plans to head home.

“We had clients this week from Finland, Germany, Switzerland and from Italy. They wanted to go home now,” said Annie Davis with Palm Beach Travel.

Davis says her agents have been sitting on hold for up to six hours, in some cases, to switch flights with clients worried about their families.

Most airlines are now offering waivers, while other travelers are taking advantage of cheap flights.

“I talked to a client this morning who wants to leave tomorrow from Miami to Costa Rica. Normally it would be close to $2,000. It was $270,” said Mike Belston, an airline expert with Palm Beach Travel.

The travel agency says many hotels are also offering cancellation policies, and right now with cheaper prices there are good deals for spring break and a staycation during the summer.

For the Woods, they already told their granddaughter not to come to Florida for spring break, and they are now working to reschedule their flight with Air Canada.

“We’d like to get home. We don’t want to be sick down here. If we’re gonna be sick, we want to be sick at home," said Anita Wood.