Southwest follows JetBlue’s move in return to pre-pandemic boarding system

Mar 23, 2021

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

For much of the pandemic, Southwest Airlines had shifted to smaller boarding groups, making it easier for travelers to work in some social distancing as they made their way onto the plane.

Under the previous process, Southwest customers moved from the gate to the plane in groups of 10, rather than clusters of 30. Now, for better or worse, Southwest is once again boarding groups of 30 customers at a time — following a similar move by JetBlue to return to its pre-pandemic process.

A Southwest spokesperson shared the following statement with TPG:

Many Customers are familiar with Southwest’s standard boarding style, and the expectation for the normal boarding process was becoming increasingly important as additional Customers travel with us. Southwest Airlines still maintains distancing reminders in airport areas and encourages social distancing. Additionally, Customers and Employees are required to wear face masks at all times, per the federal mask mandate.

Since Southwest doesn’t offer assigned seating, boarding groups are especially important — the sooner you get on the plane, the more seats you’ll have to choose from.

Related: Everything you need to know about the best seats on Southwest Airlines

Generally, customers can expect to board in the following order:

  • Preboarding
  • Group A 1–60
  • Family boarding, active military and A-List/A-List Preferred
  • Group B 1–60
  • Group C 1–60

Want more airline-specific news? Sign up for TPG’s free new biweekly Aviation newsletter!

The letter groups above are spilt into two sections — A1-A30 boards together, for example, followed by A31-A60. Generally, the first groups are reserved for customers paying for early boarding, either by purchasing a Business Select fare or Upgraded Boarding, though elite status can get you closer to the front of the line, too.

With enforced mask mandates and growing immunity thanks to a more aggressive vaccine rollout, social distancing will become less critical as time goes on. Still, to some, this move may feel a bit premature. At this point, there are definitely travelers who’d much rather be standing near nine other people at a time instead of 30.

Featured photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,650

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.