Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Reflections on Traveling


Chris and I completed a round-trip to Florida yesterday. We departed last Tuesday and returned yesterday to Maryland. We flew from the B Terminal at  BWI (Baltimore-Washington International) to the B Terminal at PBI (Palm Beach International) and returned using the same airports and terminals. 

What did I Notice

Face protection/masks were required
from the moment we entered the airport until we had exited at our destination. The only time we removed them was at BWI while we were sitting at a table having breakfast.

BWI has reduced the number of terminals in use. I noted that the A Terminal, with the exception for the A gates off the food court, is closed and the C Terminal did not have much, if any, visible activity. This means that the B Terminal seemed to be operating normally with passenger loads similar to the before COVID levels.  More than a few of the food locations and stores were open in the B Terminal. Physical distancing can be maintained, but you need to work at it. 


PBI was a ghost town. None of the stores in the main terminal area are open and only about half of the food locations in the B Terminal were open. Physical distancing is easy to maintain, there is a lot of space in which to spread.

The Flights

Southwest has a modified boarding procedure--in groups of 10 and stay in your seats until your boarding numbers are is called. This helps maintain distancing during the boarding process although people do seem to forget about physical distancing when actually boarding the aircraft and get too close. Deplaning, however, remains a free-for-all. People are so anxious to deplane that it is the normal crowded mess as always. It was impossible to maintain physical distancing during the deplaning process. Southwest is flying with the planes only 2/3 full--there is no reason to sit in a middle seat--which means the boarding process and deplaning process is faster and we did not feel "packed-in" on the flight. Note: they are only serving water and a small snack during the flight.

Check-in and Baggage

Due to reduced numbers of people flying, the check-in process was smooth. People are respectful of physical distancing and there were no lines to check-in. The lines at TSA were also minimal at both airports. Amazingly, the baggage was expeditiously received which allow for a quick airport exit. Yes, even at BWI our bag was on the carousel when we arrived in the baggage area! That was truly amazing.

Overall Impression

Flying during coronavirus can be accomplished while generally maintaining physical distancing. There are times when our personal space bubble was invaded, but with the exception of deplaning, these were few and generally manageable. The airports and airlines are working hard to make air travel relatively safe.


Southwest needs to improve the deplaning process so that everyone is not rushing the aisle to get bags from the overhead bins and deplane at the same time. Perhaps a row by row dismissal would work with everyone else remaining in their seats until the row is called to deplane. Both of our flights arrived early and so this should not make anyone late for a connecting flight.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

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