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What to expect at the airport this summer

If you haven't been to the airport in over a year, a lot has changed. Travel is starting to pick up again and airlines are now making adjustments.

MINNEAPOLIS — Airports have changed a lot during the pandemic.

What were once busy travel hubs with flights at all hours of the day, quickly turned into ghost towns when travel came to a screeching halt.

But Kyle Potter with Thrifty Traveler says things are starting to pick up again.

"By the numbers, we're probably at about two-thirds of where we were pre-pandemic and it's probably going to take a few years to get back up to 100%," Potter says.

Potter produces videos and blogs for a living, covering everything you need to know about the travel industry.

He recently went on a flight and documented everything he experienced at the airport, start to finish, and this is what he found:

Checking Your Bag

"Probably the biggest difference is when it comes to checking a bag. People who are in airports today are people going to visit friends and family, or they're going on a vacation. All of those people are checking bags and that typically means some much longer lines when it comes to the baggage drop,” Potter says.

"If you can pack in a carry-on, you skip a lot of lines and you skip a lot of stress of waiting for your bag at the carousel. If people are skittish of being in lines, or being in crowds, the baggage areas are the biggest choke points of any airport in the country right now.”

Security Lines

"If you're traveling on a busy travel day, they can definitely start to get backed up. The busiest travel days in the country are Sundays, Mondays, and Fridays. Those are definitely busier and you may start to see lines form."

But on slower days people are getting through in less than five minutes.

Restaurants, Bars and Shops

"Every single store front, whether it's a shop, restaurant or a store, is not back to full hours. So, if you're traveling really early or really late, you might need to plan ahead and be prepared to make sure you've got food if you need to eat before or after your flight."

Waiting at the Gate

"When boarding starts, I don't know what it is, even with a year of social distancing, people's instincts get in and it's like the Hunger Games to get on the flight,” Potter says.

"There's just nothing people can do to make boarding a better, more humane process. It's one area, for better or worse, it is back to normal. And I guess I’d say it’s definitely for the worse because it is basically like the pandemic didn't happen at all."

On the Plane

"As of May 1st, there is no airline in the country anymore that is blocking middle seats. So, those days are gone, and what I tell people is if you're getting on a flight, you should just assume that flight is going to be completely full. You're going to be sitting next to a stranger,” Potter says.

"Just be kind. You know? Everyone is in the same boat right now, where maybe they're taking their first trip in a long time. It feels strange. Just be nice to each other and the flight attendants. That's the only way we get back to normal, and we need to get there."

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