Three major US carriers have been implementing back-to-front boarding as a means of encouraging social distancing over the past year. JetBlue has now abandoned the method in favor of its usual, group-based approach. The airline says it is still taking guidance from its medical experts to keep passengers safe in the ‘new normal.’
Less than a year of back-to-front
As a result of the pandemic, JetBlue was one of the few carriers to adopt a back-to-front boarding system a little less than a year ago. With more Americans traveling again, and air tickets selling for record-low sums, the airline is now returning to a group-based boarding approach.
Rather than attempting further social distancing, the carrier states that mandatory face mask usage and the hospital-grade air filtration on board its aircraft will reduce the risk of onboard contamination.
JetBlue was not immediately available for comment at the time of writing, but a spokesperson for the airline shared the following statement with Business Insider,
“We continue to work within public health guidelines and take clinical guidance from our own medical experts to ensure we are doing everything we can to keep our customers and crewmembers safe in this next phase of our ‘new normal.'”
Groups are back, disinfection stays
JetBlue added it would continue to disinfect commonly touched surfaces, offer sanitizer and wipes to customers, and remain focused on keeping its crewmembers healthy through various protocols.
The airline has returned to its boarding by groups, which are noted on the boarding pass above the seat number. Pre-boarding is available to any passengers with disabilities. Mosaic loyalty members, Mint, and Even More Space customers will have priority boarding in Group A.
The two other major US airlines to implement back-to-front boarding to reduce passenger contact are Delta Air Lines and United. They are both keeping the system as their primary embarkation procedure for the time being.
Back-to-front plus WilMA safest approach
In an article published in Safety Science in February this year, researchers presented six new methods for boarding a plane while promoting social distancing practices and limiting risks of COVID-transmission.
The most favorable, but also most time-consuming, turned out to be a combination of the back-to-front by row and WilMA methods. WilMA is an acronym that stands for Window Middle Aisle. It means passengers with a window seat board first, followed by middle-seat passengers, and then passengers seated by the aisle in the last group. There is also a version of WilMA that sections the cabin into blocks.
What is your preferred method of boarding an aircraft? Do you like to be in your seat as soon as possible, or do you wait by the gate until the last minute? Has that changed since COVID? Tell us in the comments below.