Man wearing a face mask on a plane.By Shawn Conrad, CAE

It sounds surreal to say this but I just flew on a commercial flight for the first time in six months. With a family member recovering from surgery, I was needed on the West Coast and looked forward to doing something I did numerous times every year: fly. Like many, I hadn’t been on a plane since COVID-19 hit and life as we knew it changed. I finally had a reason to go to an airport and board a plane.

I have always enjoyed traveling and for the first time, wasn’t sure what a trip to the airport would entail. Had they closed the lot where I typically park? What would the process be going through TSA lines? Would people be socially distancing and wearing their masks in the airport and on the plane?  Would I be able to explore the terminal (I love to walk the terminals, browse the shops, and watch people scurry to their gates)?  To me, it’s all part of the travel experience, but I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.

Bottom line: I was pleasantly surprised. While the experience was different from what I was used to, airport personnel had gone to great lengths to make their customers feel welcomed and safe. I especially appreciated the airline leaving the middle seat vacant during the flight. People kept their masks on and the pilots even came out to greet us as we de-boarded the plane.

Like parking and mobility, airports expect a slow recovery as the world works on vaccines to combat the virus. In the meantime, it is impressive how airports and airlines have adjusted their processes to lesson the anxiety we might have of flying–not a small feat. Kudos to all for their efforts!

And in case you were wondering, the experience of parking my car at the airport was flawless.

Shawn Conrad, CAE, is IPMI’s CEO.