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Pandemic travel update 2020-12-23 15:03:23

I have not traveled since March, so I was unsure what to expect for my recent trip from Arizona to North Carolina. The biggest change at the airports is closing down gates and shops. This is a strategy aimed at reducing the volume of people concentrated in certain locations. 

The Southwest boarding process has also changed. Southwest does not assign seats, and boarding is typically done numerically by three groups A, B, and C. Normally, the A group lines up 1-30 on one side of the pillars and 31-60 on the other side. There is a new process, but it is not consistently applied. For my first flight, they boarded people ten at a time. They called A1-A10, then A11-A20, and so on. This means that within the group of ten, it's a free-for-all. Usually, people clamor for an early spot in line to get a choice seat on the plane. My second flight was boarded twenty people at a time. Again, it was a free-for-all. Whoever was bold enough to line up first was rewarded with a seat closer to the front of the plane. I had A17 and I was the second person to board. That is, after the rogue's gallery known as medical pre-board.

I had heard rumors that Southwest was intentionally keeping flights less than full to allow room for people to spread out. Again, this is not consistent. My first flight to Dallas was pretty open, and most people had an empty middle seat. My second flight to Charlotte was nearly full, and most people including myself were packed in next to each other. So much for social distancing.

After a short delay retrieving my checked bag, I arrived at the madhouse known as the airport pick-up lane. While waiting for my ride, I was entertained by an interaction between a traveler and an Uber driver. The Uber driver showed up in a late-model Nissan, and the rider immediately went to the back of the vehicle to put his luggage in the trunk. He attempted to open the trunk, but it was locked. He took his fist and banged it twice on the trunk. He went to lift the trunk lid and it was still locked. He banged his fist on the trunk again, this time louder and more forceful. He attempted to open the trunk for the third time and it was still locked. He hammered on the trunk again, this time with a force that most likely dented it. The Uber driver, who had remained in the driver's seat up to this point, finally exited the vehicle and immediately began upbraiding the rider for his mistreatment of the innocent trunk. My guess is that the rider was pulling on the trunk handle at the precise moment the driver unlocked it, thereby somehow canceling it out.  The driver finally opened the trunk, and the next conflict was who would put the luggage in the trunk. The rider seemed to want to maintain control of his bags while the driver may have been trying to salvage a trip. The driver won. I can only imagine how the rest of the ride played out.

The other phenomenon I witnessed was a general wasting of time that was clogging up the lanes of traffic. The airport pick-up is not the place to have long lost family reunions. Okay, you haven't seen someone for a long time. I get it. But your job is to get out of there as fast as possible. You've got plenty of time to rehash old times and catch up somewhere else. I'll give you the weepy long goodbye at the airport drop-off, but the pick-up is no place to waste time with long lost family reunions.

More from Brandon Wilson

Lol what was your opinion about family reunions at the pick-up before the pandemic? I ask this because I'm assuming you mean "But your job is to get out of there as fast as possible" as a reference to social distancing practice.
2020-12-23 18:07:23
The pandemic did not change my opinion. There should be no-nonsense in the pick-up lane, especially during periods of high volume like during the holidays.
2020-12-23 18:17:19
Oh wow you're cold. You're a very function driven person. Lol as in if this spac is for pick up then you better be only picking up!!!
2020-12-23 20:26:34