Nashville Airport newest example of why you need to plan ahead before your next airport trip
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has had a massive impact on the travel industry, with changes to flight schedules, depressed demand and some airlines suspending operations completely. It's likely been months since most travelers have set foot in an airport.
If you're in that position, your next trip may be quite different than your last — and not just because of mask requirements and social-distancing measures.
Nashville International Airport (BNA) is the most recent example of changes that could impact your post-pandemic airport visit. Starting Sept. 1, 2020, the airport will be effectively split into two, separate terminals as part of ongoing construction that recently saw a new concourse open for Southwest Airlines.
Previously, any traveler could freely move throughout all areas of the airport, with just a single security line for all gates. Starting this Tuesday, the A and B concourses will make up the North Terminal, while C and D will form the South Terminal — each with its own checkpoint.
In other words, any Nashville-based traveler will need to pay close attention to which airline operates from which terminal, and you may find that your favorite restaurant is no longer accessible if you're booked on an airline with gates in another concourse.
Though BNA isn't anywhere near the busiest airport in the U.S. — nor is it the only one to shift its configuration during the pandemic — this is yet another reason why you need to do your homework ahead of your next trip.
Many airlines implemented major operational changes in the weeks after the pandemic exploded around the world, and a number of these live on today. For example, Virgin Atlantic closed its operations at London-Gatwick (LGW) in May, shifting all passengers to London-Heathrow (LHR). And though the carrier has announced plans to begin restarting routes from LHR — along with new flights to Pakistan — it continues to operate solely out of Terminal 2, meaning no access to the carrier's terrific Clubhouse at this time.
It's a similar story with Virgin's main competitor, British Airways, which has also consolidated its London operations at Heathrow and is currently using just Terminal 5 — though BA did reopen a pair of lounges there in July.
READ MORE: Heathrow consolidation: Which terminal is my airline flying from?
Further changes may still come, like the recently-announced partnership between JetBlue and American Airlines. It's hard to see JetBlue expanding operations from the small Marine Air Terminal at New York-LaGuardia (LGA), as promised in the announcement. As a result, we could see it shift to American's partially-open, stunning new terminal at LGA.
And then, of course, there's the passenger experience one you're actually through the airport.
With demand still well below pre-pandemic levels, many services and amenities remain closed or under significant reductions. Only a handful of airport lounges have reopened their doors — including some Priority Pass locations as well as select Alaska, American, Delta and United lounges. However, American Express Centurion Lounges, some of the most sought-after clubs in the U.S., are still shuttered.
Even if you can find an open lounge, your experience inside may be quite different. American, for example, just restarted hot food service in select Admirals Clubs, while United Clubs are following local regulations regarding food and beverage offerings.
And that's not even considering the various restaurants that are closed, including a handful from our list of best airport dining options.
All in all, expect a very different post-security experience than you may have had before.
READ MORE: 6 ways airport lounges are improving — and one way they definitely aren’t
So what exactly does this mean for you? Well, when you're getting ready to next hit the skies, set aside some time to review all aspects of your time in airports. Right off the bat, make sure you know what your airline is requiring — from masks to temperature checks to health forms at check-in. Then, make sure you know exactly where you need to go to check in, tag your bags (if necessary) and clear security.
From there, research airport dining options, both in your point of origin and any stops along the way. Most airlines are still offering very limited in-flight service, so in most cases, you'll need to have any food and drinks you need for the flight before you board.
Along these lines, investigate contactless ordering options. For example, nearly two-dozen airports partner with the Grab app to order food directly from your phone, including filtering options based on the terminal(s) you'll be visiting. This can be an easy way to not only see which restaurants are open but also minimize your contact with other travelers.
Bottom line — even the most seasoned travelers should expect a changed experience at the airport. And it'll be up to you to make sure you're prepared for it.