Passengers relax at California's Long Beach Airport. Photo: Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images

One upside of the global pandemic is that airports are a lot more pleasant these days.

The big picture: A year ago, overcrowding and construction led to delays and confusion for travelers at many major airports.

  • Today, airports are comparatively empty, leading to a sharp increase in traveler satisfaction as passengers breeze through security checkpoints, baggage claims and food and retail services, according to a new study.

Details: Overall customer satisfaction was a record-high 784 (on a scale of 1,000), up 22 points from 2019 in J.D. Power's annual airport satisfaction study.

  • The check-in process, food and retail shops saw significant improvements, while passengers also gave airports high marks for cleanliness, less crowding and lower noise levels.

What they're saying: “Compared to the pre-COVID-19 environment when most airports were running significantly over capacity, the lack of crowds and long lines is actually creating a very convenient experience for travelers right now." said Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power.

The highest-ranking major airports were Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Miami International Airport and McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas.

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Pence to continue traveling despite aides testing positive for COVID-19

Marc Short with Pence in March. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Marc Short, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, tested positive for the coronavirus Saturday and is quarantining, according to a White House statement.

Why it matters: Short is Pence's closest aide, and was one of the most powerful forces on the White House coronavirus task force. Pence and second lady Karen Pence tested negative for the virus on Sunday morning, according to the vice president's office.

AOC: "Extremely important" that Biden offer Bernie Sanders a Cabinet position

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday that she believes it's "extremely important" that Joe Biden offer Sen. Bernie Sanders and other progressive leaders Cabinet positions if he's elected president.

The big picture: Ocasio-Cortez was pressed repeatedly on policy differences between her and the more moderate Biden, including her opposition to fracking and support for Medicare for All. She responded that it would be a "privilege" and a "luxury" to be able to lobby a Biden administration on progressive issues, insisting that the focus right now should be on winning the White House.

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Mark Meadows: "We are not going to control the pandemic"

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows defended Vice President Pence's decision to continue traveling and campaigning despite his exposure to aides who have tested positive for COVID-19, saying Sunday that Pence is exempt from CDC guidelines because he is "essential personnel."

Why it matters: CDC guidelines call for people who have been exposed to the virus to quarantine for 14 days. Meadows said on CNN's "State of the Union" that Pence will wear a mask when he travels and argued that "he's not just campaigning," pointing to the Israel-Sudan normalization agreement announced by the White House last week.