March 25, 2021

Airlines return to old ways as Southwest drops boarding change

Southwest Airlines is resuming its traditional boarding procedures.

The airline began boarding passengers in groups of 30 earlier this month. Before, Southwest had been boarding passengers in groups of 10.

A company spokesperson says Southwest customers are familiar with the airline’s standard boarding style and expect the normal boarding process as they start flying again.

Travel appears to be increasing. U.S. airport passenger counts have topped a million a day for 12 consecutive days.

Southwest and several other airlines that once blocked middle seats now sell out flights if they can. The last holdout is Delta Air Lines, which has extended empty middle seats through April 30.

A search of Delta flights in May showed middle seats for sale. A Delta spokesman said the airline hasn’t decided whether to extend the middle-seat ban, and if it does, passengers in middle seats can be moved to window and aisle seats.

Many airlines are also bringing back snacks and drinks after halting service last year to limit contact between flight attendants and passengers. Some, but not all, have resumed selling alcohol —Southwest is still dry; other airlines vary service by flight length and whether passengers are in first-class.

Tuesday marked the 13th straight day that more than 1 million passengers went through U.S. airport checkpoints, according to the Transportation Security Administration. Traffic is still down about half from the same period in 2019, however.

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