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Back in the Saddle Again – Observations from My First Flights in Two Years

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Air Travel News

My Air Travel News – Observations from My First Flights in Two Years

I recently described how I hadn’t been on an airplane in almost two years.  That recently changed.  It was my interest in attending a Miles to Memories Diamond meetup that forced my hand.  I also couldn’t resist a trip to Epcot, which I hadn’t experienced since early 2020.  I dipped my toes in the air travel water rather than fully diving in on this trip.  My outbound and return flights were early morning, non-stop flights about one and a half hours each.  Nonetheless, I had much to become reacquainted with or learn all over again.  Dare I say it, I even experienced a few positives.  Here’s my personal air travel news from early December.

ID and Security Queues Are Much Longer

My local airport is mid-sized, and I’ve never experienced more than a handful of passengers at ID and security lines on each visit.  It also helps that I focus on early morning flights.  Over the years, I’ve been spoiled by short queues to the point where bothering with a TSA PreCheck application was unnecessary.  That may be changing.

Despite traveling at my familiar early morning time, lines have gotten exponentially longer.  The overall setup seemed the same, and there were no snags that I noticed – just a bunch more travelers. Maybe I should’ve expected this, and longer lines are probably not news to many of you frequent travelers.  Also, this could’ve been an anomaly of that specific day, but that’s the best case scenario.  Regardless, I’ll fully prepare for longer lines from now on.

On the flip side, I couldn’t have been happier with ID and security lines at Orlando (MCO).  Historically, this has been one of the worst airport experiences for us – masses of people at a disorganized ID check and a long, serpentine security line.  By coupling my Hyatt MCO stay the night before my flight with an early morning departure the next day, I beat the big lines.  I’ll probably plan a Hyatt MCO stay the night before every early morning MCO departure from now on.

Air Travel News
This looks great to me.

Empty Gates Deliver Peace

Overall, I’m an early arriver for flights.  I’d rather build in a bit of extra time for everything (traffic, the lines I described, etc) and avoid the stress of a close-in airport arrival.  Therefore, I end up with way more time than I need in the terminal most of the time.  Also, my mid-sized airport doesn’t have a lounge.  An old airport friend is always waiting for me early in the morning, though – the empty gate at the end of the terminal.  In my regional airport, this is beyond all dining, stores, and bathrooms.  I enjoy it all – the quiet, the space, the lack of unwelcome odors.  It may not be a personal lounge, but it’s the closest alternative.

Good Luck Lives!

I may be rusty, but I did remember to check in for my outbound Southwest flight exactly 24 hours prior.  My boarding position was a low number in the B group.  Following Southwest’s boarding process (which I’m a fan of), I headed to the back of the plane for an aisle seat.  I ended up one row in front of and across from the bathroom.  Another gentleman was already in the window seat.  A few minutes later we heard the three magic words – “boarding is completed.”  The window guy and I shared a knowing glance and smirk.  We had gotten lucky, and no one had claimed the middle seat.  I’ll take the small wins where I can get them.

Air Travel News

Uneventful Flights Do Exist

Most, if not all, of us have seen reports of passengers behaving badly on flights during the pandemic.  While we should never minimize the havoc unruly passengers create, I like to remember flights with such behavior are very small portions of the pie.  But with so many of these stories thrown at us, we may erroneously think it’s happening on more flights than it actually is.  Indeed, numbers have gone up exponentially since the pandemic started, but it’s still a minimal proportion of all flights.  I choose to believe that the vast majority of us still default to the golden rule in public settings.

Domestic Air Travel and the Pandemic

Beyond masks, I was pleasantly surprised by how much domestic air travel during the COVID-19 era is mostly the same as it was pre-pandemic.  Masking up in airports and for the duration of flights has been adjustment for all of us, some more than others.  But I still pass the time the same way at airports and in the sky, I still get my Southwest beverage and salty snack, and people are still generally polite to one another.  During the trip, I eventually forgot I had my mask on, especially while I was sleeping.

Of course, my experience is limited to a couple short, domestic flights.  I know many have had different experiences.  Again, I’ll take the positives where I can get them right now with air travel.


Based on my recent experience flying, I confidently plan more air travel for 2022.  Hopefully, all of those plans come to fruition, but things can change for us unexpectedly.  I also remember that, inevitably, not all travel experiences will be rosy.  I’ll do what I can to set myself up for success, though – flying non-stop whenever possible, building in plenty of travel time, and setting low expectations.  How has air travel been for you recently?  Share your own air travel news in the comments!

Disclosure: Miles to Memories has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Miles to Memories and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

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Benjy Harmon
Benjy Harmon
Benjy focuses on the intersection of points, travel, and financial independence (FI). An experienced world traveler, husband, and father, he currently roams throughout the USA close to expense-free. Benjy enjoys helping others achieve their FI and travel goals.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


  1. ROFL… an article from an infrequent traveler targeted towards a site for people who are likely to have continued to travel dozens of times in the last two years. This site is better than this. Next!


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