The only thing I miss about travel during the pandemic

Waiting patiently in seat 13B on a domestic flight, I looked behind me at the aisle of passengers clogging up the queue.

I sighed. Should I accept my fate, go back to my book and wait until the plane empties before I grab my luggage from the overhead locker? Or make pleading eyes at every person who passes me until one of them nods to let me pass?

What a year it has been for travel – oh, those happy days when our borders were opened! Excessive paperwork made travel restrictive – but soon enough, those restrictions began to disappear.

No more pre-departure tests, then finally no proof of vaccination (although it remains in force for some countries), masks are now optional on flights and that New Zealand Travelers Declaration form has finally been thrown out on board. Oh, the sweet smell of freedom.

But as the travel world largely returns to what it once was—with the fun additions of lost luggage and a much lighter wallet—there’s one thing I really miss about travel in the pandemic era.

And that was the civilized way we disembarked a plane.

You know the drill. You are required to remain seated with your seat belts fastened until the aircraft comes to a complete stop and the seat belt sign is deactivated.

But the orchestra of seat belts unfastening in unison is often heard long before the seat belt sign rings, followed by a panicked run to the overhead lockers to grab things in the hope of getting anxious travelers to their final destinations A little faster.

These eager boarders then clog the aisles and Mr. Smith, who sits in 29A, somehow always finds a way to get to baggage claim before poor Mrs. Jones in 4C. Mate, I’ll see you at baggage claim anyway.

But during the pandemic something magical happened. Due to the need to social distance (make sure you have enough space to spread your legs), the process of disembarking the aircraft was gloriously organised.

Each row, starting at the front of the plane, had its turn to rise. We weren’t supposed to clog the aisles in case someone breathed their Covid germs on another passenger and were instructed to remain seated until the next row had calmly collected their bags from the overhead bins and started their journey down the plane.

No jumpers lurking in the aisles, no frustrated passengers stuck hunched under the walls, giving passing passengers raised eyebrows of hope to free them in line.

He was organized, civilized, and always gave me more time to finish whatever detective fiction I was reading when the plane landed.

But now that the days of social distancing are over and your neighbor’s breath is free to float on your shoulders, travelers have returned to their old mindsets and habits.

Many completely ignore the need for personal space, shoving their luggage behind the front passenger’s knees, or hovering so close you can smell if they’ve had balls or Cookie Time as an in-flight snack.

There are many aspects of pandemic travel that will hopefully be trashed, but civilized entry and exit from transport is one aspect of travel etiquette I’d rather bring back.

See also: Annoying trend on airplanes is worse than reclining your seat. I am guilty of this too.

See also: I got into a fight on a plane because I reclined my seat – and I won

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