After staying home for much of 2020, travel is coming back. Millions of travelers are returning to the skies every week, and Americans are finally planning and booking future trips again. Even with a fast-spreading Delta variant fueling a resurgence of COVID-19, travel is still up.
No matter when you return, your first flight in months will look and feel different. Flying changed while you were gone – and that goes far beyond mask mandates. That's why we captured the entire experience of flying during COVID-19, from getting to the airport and checking in all the way to grabbing your bag after landing.
There's no question flying has changed in the last year. There are noticeable changes when it comes time to check a bag and get through airport security. Some shops and restaurants in airports are still closed or have limited hours. A few airlines board planes differently than they did pre-pandemic.
But believe it or not, many aspects of the flying experience have returned to normal – or something close to it. Is that a good or bad thing? That's up to you.
Some airlines blocked middle seats for many months to give passengers more space onboard. One by one, they all started filling those seats.
After Delta unblocked them as of May 1, the days of empty middle seats are officially a thing of the past. These days, it's safe to assume your next flight will be completely full.
Airlines have even started scaling back their cleaning and social distancing measures in airports and on the plane. And inflight service with drinks, snacks, and additional goodies for purchase has returned, too.
A few other things stand out about flying today, more than a year and a half into a pandemic that is hopefully in its final stages:
- This time last year, airports felt fairly empty. But that has changed: While fewer Americans are traveling than this time in 2019, that's not off by much. It's far busier than it was even in early 2021, with close to 2 million or more Americans flying daily.
- Checking a bag? You're not alone. Almost everyone flying these days is checking a bag, which can lead to long lines in some airports. Want to skip it? Check-in online and pack in just a carry-on bag!
- Most (but not all) restaurants and shops inside the airport have reopened. But many still have limited hours, so if you're flying early or late in the day, be prepared.
- In-flight service is coming back – kind of. Airlines like American and Delta have brought back modified snack and beverage service. Even alcohol is available for purchase again on most – but not all – airlines.
Read up on our top tips for your first trip during or after COVID-19!
This is one of many videos we've put together throughout the pandemic. So be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel and check out other videos like putting all four major U.S. airlines to the test during COVID-19, a trip aboard Spirit Airlines, and a review of the brand new Amex Centurion Lounge in Denver!