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It’s only been 2 months since my last flight but it’s a whole new world. In March, our family trip to Spain that was replete with the air travel occurrences that I have come to know and love/ hate. Over the Memorial Day weekend, I took a flight from JAX to CLT and the experience was totally different than it has been in the past. Here are 7 things that changed drastically from the last time I flew.

1.     Parking Was Easier

JAX had been one of the fastest-growing airports pre-Coronavirus. A new economy parking lot was in the process of being built. This trip ALL 3 economy lots were closed. The pricing on the remaining parking lots had all dropped and the number of spots available was greater than I had ever seen.

2.     Hand Sanitizer Stations Were Everywhere

If you forget to pack your own hand sanitizer (at least in JAX and CLT), there were multiple stands throughout the airport. It seemed like lots of travelers were using them as well.

3.     New Signs and PA System Announcements

There were lots of signs urging passengers to “Social Distance”. These were at check-in, at the TSA line, on monitors throughout the terminal, and at the gate while boarding. The PA system also urged travelers to wash hands and wear masks and was looped through what seemed like every few minutes.

4.     In-Flight Services Slashed

During the pre-flight announcements, changes were made to include info on wearing masks and how to work around the mask should the oxygen masks drop during the trip. American has also discontinued the food and beverage service on flights LESS than 4.5 hours. It’s more important than ever to bring your own water bottle and snacks or buy them before boarding.

5.     Lots of Masks

I would say that 50% of people were wearing masks in the airport and terminals. On our American flight signs stated that “Face Covering Required on Board”. I received several emails about this requirement prior to the day of travel as well. The caveat here was that masks could be removed when eating or drinking. In reality it appeared that many people used this as an opportunity to not wear them at all after boarding. The official American Airlines policy is to require masks but to not directly confront passengers who ignore the “requirement”.

6.     Terminals Were Quiet

This is not exactly a surprise given the drop off in flier numbers. The trip through the security line was the quickest it has ever been even though only one lane was open. The number of restaurants and shops that were shuttered was eye-opening. Lounges in JAX and CLT were closed. The Starbucks which is normally 15-20 people deep had one customer ordering as we walked past. All of the escalators and people movers were also shut down.

7.     Passenger Conversations Were Down

I must admit this was not a scientific observation. However, there was noticeably less chatter between passengers in the terminal, during boarding and throughout the flight. The face masks probably played a large factor in this, along with the additional spacing since my flights were nowhere near full. However, it did seem to be a much quieter flight experience than in the past.

The new right now

I imagine plane travel this Memorial Day weekend will be at a historic low. My recent trip experience would have been quiet for any weekend and the fact that this was a holiday weekend made it even more surreal. I did speak with a Southwest pilot who said he has noticed passenger numbers slowly starting to pick back up. He also said he had flown a flight with ZERO passengers at one point which I thought was pretty amazing. Over time I would expect travelers to return to airports, but I believe some of the above changes are going to be with us for good.

What are your thoughts on travel now? Has anything changed dramatically at your home airport? What long term changes do you think will occur with air travel? Let us know in the comments below!

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