So long, social distancing: Southwest Airlines resumes pre-pandemic boarding

Southwest Airlines has resumed its traditional boarding procedures, ditching a pandemic policy of boarding passengers in smaller groups to promote social distancing.

The nation’s largest domestic carrier, which doesn’t assign seats, began boarding passengers in groups of 30 on March 15. It had been boarding passengers in groups of 10 since it unveiled its “Southwest Promise” health and safety protocols in May.

“The majority of our customers are familiar with Southwest’s standard boarding style and have an expectation for the normal boarding process as they return to travel,” Southwest spokeswoman Brandy King said in a statement.

Travel, decimated by the coronavirus pandemic, is showing strong signs of life this month as more Americans are vaccinated and COVID-19 case count trends improve in many areas of the country. U.S. airport passenger counts have topped 1 million a day for 12 consecutive days and 17 days total in March, according to Transportation Security Administration screening statistics.Passenger screenings, which topped 2 million a day before the pandemic, fell below 90,000 in April and did not top 1 million again until mid-October.

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King noted that Southwest, like all airlines, continues to have “physical distancing” reminders at the airport and requires passengers to wear masks at the airport and on its planes.

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