Southwest back to pre-pandemic boarding procedure

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Southwest Boeing 737 Max 8 [Credit: Angel DiBilio/Shutterstock.com]
Southwest has resumed its pre-pandemic boarding procedure, in which 30 passengers are called to board at once while another 30 passengers are asked to line up. Photo Credit: Angel DiBilio/Shutterstock.com

Southwest has resumed its pre-pandemic boarding procedure, in which 30 passengers are called to board at once while another 30 passengers are asked to line up just on the other side of the carrier's boarding columns. 

Southwest has also resumed soft drink service

The carrier changed its boarding process on March 15, and it expanded its drink offerings on March 16. 

From early May until last week, Southwest had called only 10 people to board at a time -- a move designed to better maintain social distancing. 

"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 spokesman Brian Parrish wrote in an email Monday morning in explanation of the change. 

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Parrish noted that per federal order, Southwest passengers and employees are still required to wear masks at all times. He also said that the carrier encourages social distancing. 

Passengers line up to board a Southwest flight.
Passengers line up to board a Southwest flight. Photo Credit: TW photo by Robert Silk

However, the standard boarding process makes social distancing largely infeasible in most cases. Boarding posts that tell people where to line up aren't positioned far enough apart for individuals to maintain a six-foot distance if 30 people are in the line. Plus, the carrier asks flyers to form two such lines, separated only by the boarding posts. 

Parrish did not directly respond to a question about the health calculations Southwest made in resuming its normal boarding process.

"Southwest Airlines maintains physical distancing reminders in airport areas and still encourages social distancing," he reiterated. 

Resuming beverage service

On beverage service, Southwest has resumed offering Coke, Diet Coke and 7UP to go along with the water it resumed offering last May. 

"Our customers are expressing a preference for additional beverage options, so this is one small way that we can meet customer requests while still limiting selections to support the well-being and comfort of our customers and employees," Parrish said. 

On a flight last Friday from San Diego to Denver, flight attendants took orders of one of the four drink offers from passengers, then returned with the beverage. No beverage cart was used.

This report was updated to correct the date on which Southwest changed its boarding process. It was on March 15. 

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