I Was In An Airport For The First Time In 9 Months This Week. It Was Odd.

It won’t be too much longer before I’ll be able to say it’s been an odd year of not boarding airplanes. As it stands today, that seems to be the earliest I could see myself getting on an airplane.  However, I was in an airport yesterday, and it was definitely an odd experience.  I wasn’t expecting to be, but I had to pick up a family member from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport yesterday.  It wasn’t my wife or kids, so I wore a mask in the car and we rolled down the windows to be safe.

While I was waiting for them to arrive, I decided to walk around a bit.  With the weather turning cold in DC and no travel on my horizon I was really curious what an airport looked like right now.  There are typically around 1 million passengers flying per day now.  That’s way down from the peak as well as even a run of the mill travel day, but still plenty.

As I entered the concourse, it felt pretty “normal”.  The only sign of a pandemic thus far had been the presence of a few empty parking spots in the garage, something of a rarity.  There were a handful of people on the sky bridge into the terminal, all wearing masks.

Once inside the terminal, the first thing I noticed was that virtually all of the pre-security concessions were closed.  This included restaurants, food stands and news stands.  I’d heard this from plenty of travelers but it’s a good reminder for those with planned air travel.  If you think you’ll be hungry, your best option is likely to bring food with you.

I walked up and down the terminal for roughly 20 minutes.  Those that know DCA will recall that you can see the concourses post-security and even some of the gate areas.  As I walked, I saw very few passengers.  It was about 5pm, which is typically a pretty busy time for arrivals and departures at DCA.  Still, everything was pretty well empty.  Each concourse had multiple airplanes at the gates.  In fact, most gates were occupied.

I went upstairs to the ticket counters.  There, a tale of two cities, where not a single passenger was waiting for an agent at the United counter but Delta was hopping.

And, since it’s DCA and I’m an airplane nerd, I couldn’t help but grab some shots of the vintage details in the original terminal nestled between the A and B terminals.

Construction continues on the expansion at DCA which should make future travel there a bit more tolerable.  Some folks love the airport, and I do find it aesthetically pleasing.  However, the crowded garages and too small gate areas have never made it one of my favorites.

The Final Two Pennies

This was a fluke visit to the airport, necessary based on a spur-of-the-moment trip due to medical issues.  I’m honesty not sure when I would have found myself in an airport again if it wasn’t for this trip.  I quickly realized two things in my 30-minute foray into the terminal.  First, I really do love airports and travel in general.  Seeing the old bits of DCA architecture is always fun for me.

At the same time, seeing people bustling around with masks reinforced for me that the process of traveling right now just isn’t very fun.  And, there was an equal realization that I don’t really miss travel right now.  It’s not to say that I won’t be ready to hop on a plane when it’s safe to do so.  However, I do continue to find joy in waking up with my family each day and spending time on matters I never used to get to do when I traveled.  For example, my daughter is currently reading Angels & Demons, a book I thoroughly enjoyed.  I even created a walking tour of places featured in the story, set around Vatican City in Rome.  My daughter and I are taking turns reading chapters aloud, something that I just wouldn’t have been able to pull off if I was in road warrior mode.

Leaving DCA I was sure of two things.  I’m encouraged to see air travel slowly returning, and I’m happy to not be a part of it just yet.

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  1. So kudos, sounds like you’ve been sacrificing for the good of public health. Thank you, meant sincerely. But you do realize the irrationality of windows down, mask on in car(again good for you) because it wasn’t your immediate family? Anyone you are picking up at airport has not been in your family bubble for while they were away, so the mask and car windows open, and precautions for some period of time, should apply after family members arrive home.

    1. Kate, I took that same precaution when my father’s car broke down a couple of weeks ago and I had to go get him. I would take the same precaution with anyone who wasn’t in our household.

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