David Schaper

Updated September 17, 2021 at 1:03 PM ET

A debate is heating up over whether President Biden's sweeping vaccine mandate should be extended to cover those who travel domestically by plane and train.

It's hard to fathom now, but we used to be able to arrive at the airport just minutes before a flight. We'd keep our shoes and coats on as we went through a simple metal detector, and virtually anyone could go right to the gate without a boarding pass or even showing an ID.

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Twenty years ago, you could arrive at an airport at the last minute and walk through a metal detector without taking off your shoes. But that has changed since the September 11 terrorist attacks as airport security evolved to meet new threats.

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President Biden is celebrating a big win for one of his top legislative priorities, touting a bipartisan agreement on a framework to roughly double spending on transportation and infrastructure over the next eight years.

"Today is a huge day for one-half of my economic agenda," Biden said Thursday as he lauded the agreement that would spend $1.2 billion to repair, rebuild and expand roads, bridges, railroads, public transit, airports, water and sewer infrastructure and broadband.

Just as hundreds of thousands of Americans return to the skies again this summer, many of the old inconveniences and aggravations of commercial airline travel are back, too. And experts say travelers should expect ongoing problems throughout the busy summer season.

Long lines at security checkpoints, disruptive passengers and lengthy flight delays and cancellations are greeting many air travelers who may not have boarded a plane in 15 months or more because of the pandemic.

Each week, we answer frequently asked questions about life during the coronavirus crisis. If you have a question you'd like us to consider for a future post, email us at goatsandsoda@npr.org with the subject line: "Weekly Coronavirus Questions." See an archive of our FAQs here.

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There's good news and bad news for Americans who have been itching to take a European vacation. Spain reopens to vaccinated tourists on June 7. Greece, Germany, France, Italy, Croatia and other countries are opening up again soon.

But in order to go, travelers will have to show proof that they've been vaccinated, and it's not yet clear how they'll do that. That's causing a lot of confusion among those with pent-up wanderlust, as demand for air travel has been soaring in recent weeks.

Complaints about airlines refusing to pay refunds for canceled flights during the pandemic soared more than 5,500% over the previous year. Some customers are still trying to fight airlines for refunds, while others, who got credit or vouchers for future travel instead, are finding that those credits may soon expire.

And that's outraging some consumers who as taxpayers came to the rescue of the industry when airlines lost billions during the pandemic.

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Looking for a nonstop flight between Appleton, Wis., and Savannah, Ga.? It'll soon be available. Or how about Austin, Texas, to Nashville, Tenn.? Louisville, Ky., to Los Angeles? Or from just about anywhere to Bozeman, Mont.?

Those are some of the new, unconventional domestic routes that airlines are now offering as they try to capitalize on the huge pent-up demand for leisure travel and inch back toward profitability while waiting for business travel to bounce back.

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Hundreds of people gathered in the Shiloh Temple International Ministries in Minneapolis this afternoon for the funeral of 20-year-old Daunte Wright.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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At George Floyd Square in Minneapolis, a crowd gathered earlier this afternoon when they heard that the jury had reached a verdict. And this was the sound of the reaction there as the verdict was read.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD AMBIENCE)

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A new possible problem with Boeing's 737 Max airplanes has several airlines once again pulling dozens of the troubled jets out of service.

Boeing said in a statement that it has "recommended to 16 customers that they address a potential electrical issue in a specific group of 737 MAX airplanes prior to further operations."

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Just two months ago, airlines were warning about furloughing thousands of pilots. Now they're putting up help-wanted signs. As NPR's David Schaper reports, that's because air travel seems to be recovering more quickly than expected.

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Just in time for pothole season, the latest report card on the nation's infrastructure shows that the needs are great but funding is lacking.

Many of the country's roads, bridges, airports, dams, levees and water systems are aging and in poor to mediocre condition. And they're in need of a major federal investment to keep from getting worse and to withstand the harsh effects of a changing climate, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Recent promising vaccine news has many people hoping to finally see the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, and maybe even daring to think about getting on a plane bound for snowy mountains, a tropical beach, or just anywhere.

The Pizzarello family in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., is among them. They love to travel. So much so that, Ed, the patriarch, has been hesitant to even bring up the subject during the pandemic so that his 14-year old daughter and 10-year-old son wouldn't get their hopes up.

Boeing is trying to close the books on a dismal year. The aircraft manufacturer Wednesday reported that the company lost close to $12 billion in 2020, a record loss, as the pandemic depressed demand for new airplanes and the company continued to reel from its 737 Max debacle.

Calling it "a year like no other," Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun started a conference call on the company's 2020 financial results by stating an obvious but painful truth.

"2020 was a historically challenging year for our world, for our industry (and) for our business," Calhoun said.

Mask up or you won't be allowed to board a plane, train or bus. President Biden signed an executive order Thursday, requiring passengers to wear face coverings during interstate travel.

It's one of 10 executive orders signed by the president today aimed at addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 400,000 Americans.

Airlines and their employees have been seeking such a federal mask mandate almost since the pandemic began, as they've struggled to deal with score of passengers who refuse to follow the airlines' own mask-wearing rules.

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Boeing will pay more than $2.5 billion to settle a criminal charge related to the two 737 Max plane crashes in 2018 and 2019 that killed 346 people.

The Justice Department has announced that it has reached a deferred prosecution agreement with Boeing to resolve a charge of criminal conspiracy to defraud the FAA.

Less than a week remains until Christmas, and if you haven't ordered all of your holiday gifts yet, it may be too late to ship them in time.

A huge increase in online shopping this year has demand for package delivery exceeding capacity this holiday season and stretching the delivery supply chain thin.

The deluge of packages has many package sorting, distribution and delivery workers at the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx, UPS and Amazon busier than they have ever been before.

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With coronavirus vaccines closer to being authorized, the logistical challenge is transporting and distributing those vaccines quickly worldwide. As NPR's David Schaper reports, it's a complicated process.

The days of bringing your emotional support cat, pig or even a miniature horse on a plane may soon be coming to an end. The federal government is enacting a new rule restricting the types of service animals allowed on commercial airline flights, allowing only dogs that meet specific training criteria.

Updated at 4:55 p.m. ET

After 20 months on the tarmac following two fatal crashes, Boeing's troubled 737 Max airliner has been given the green light to resume passenger flights, the Federal Aviation Administration announced Wednesday.

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