United is resuming its pre-pandemic boarding process.
Beginning Thursday, the Chicago-based carrier said its passengers will no longer have to board the plane from back to front and instead carry out its "Better Boarding" group boarding system.
The boarding will separate customers into five groups that will be called one at a time based on the customer’s assigned seating and allow boarding in a two-lane process where tickets will be scanned. Travelers can use the United app or get alerts to be notified when it’s their time to board for social distancing purposes.
"Last year, United temporarily switched to boarding from the back of the aircraft to the front to improve social distancing," Maddie King, a United Airlines spokeswoman, said in a statement to Travel + Leisure.
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"Now that more customers are returning, this can result in customers gathering in the gate area to wait near the boarding door for their row to be called. This gathering defeats the social distancing purpose of back-to-front boarding," the statement continued.
The goal is to speed up the boarding process safely, the airline said.
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A number of major carriers – which started boarding passengers from the back of the plant first to limit contact between travelers – are reverting back to pre-pandemic policies. Southwest also brought back its traditional boarding system bringing on 30 passengers on the flight at a time, while JetBlue also stopped boarding back-to-front in March.
The Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention recently issued new guidance, saying that people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can travel safely with continued mask-wearing, social distancing and hand washing, a good sign for the travel industry as it continues to bounce back from pandemic-fueled revenue losses.