- JetBlue Airways has been slowly returning to normal and abandoning pandemic-era protocols.
- Middle seats are no longer blocked and back-to-front boarding was recently discarded.
- I still felt perfectly safe on the airline and was impressed with its array of safety measures.
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Flights are being filled to capacity as the airline stopped blocking seats in January following the Christmas travel rush. Middle seats had been blocked until October 15, 2020, around the time Southwest Airlines also announced an end to its policy.
But it didn’t stop there, JetBlue has been gradually moving away from pandemic-era safety measures like back-to-front boarding and has brought back fan favorites like soft drinks and more snacks in the in-flight service.
After flying JetBlue during the summer at the height of its safety efforts, I decided to take JetBlue home from Los Angeles to New York in March on one of its flagship routes. Here’s what flying JetBlue Airways is like in 2021.
Los Angeles is JetBlue’s new West Coast hub, having moved operations from nearby Long Beach during the pandemic.
JetBlue doesn’t have an entire terminal to itself as it does in New York here at LAX but it makes the space work.
Check-in kiosks were spaced and JetBlue even installed social distancing reminders on the floor.
Hand sanitizer stations were available next to the bag drop station.
And even the regular check-in line had multiple social distancing and face mask reminders from both the airline and the airport, in addition to plexiglass partitions at check-in counters. It was the most impressive setup I’d seen in the terminal.
JetBlue, like many US airlines, now requires customers to acknowledge a health declaration at check-in. I had to affirm that I didn’t have any COVID-19 symptoms, been exposed to the virus, or tested positive for the virus.
I also had to agree to JetBlue’s face covering policy and affirm I didn’t have a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or greater.
I used the kiosk to print my boarding pass and was reminded about the touch-free option by using the JetBlue mobile application to do everything from check-in to get a mobile boarding pass. Customers checking a bag could also just scan their boarding pass and the bag tag would automatically print without having to touch the screen.
I booked JetBlue’s version of basic economy for this flight but I was luckily still assigned a window seat. Most of the middle seats went empty on the flight and I was glad to see JetBlue wasn’t randomly assigned seats as some other airlines are for basic economy flyers.
Ticket in hand, I headed to the gate and saw some of the same safety features. Plexiglass partitions were installed at the check-in counter and the airport had installed social distancing placards on the floor but that was about it.
Boarding soon began in JetBlue’s standard procedure based on groups. There was surprisingly no pre-boarding reminder to wear masks
Passengers boarding first included JetBlue elite status holders, those traveling in Mint business class, active duty military, families with small children, customers with disabilities, and travelers with “Even More Space” seats.
JetBlue gave up on back-to-front boarding in early March.
Inside the jetway, the airport had installed its own social distancing placards, saving JetBlue the trouble. These placards are largely ignored but are still a good gesture.
Flight attendants kindly welcomed us on board but didn’t offer anything in the way of hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes. I later found out that they were available on request.
Source: JetBlue Airways
The aircraft, however, was perfectly clean. I had no concerns whatsoever in that regard.
JetBlue is beefing up aircraft cleanings and disinfecting planes by means of “fogging” with an electrostatic sprayer, a common industry standard.
Source: JetBlue Airways
I got to my seat, 25A, and settled in for the overnight flight to New York.
Everything about the seat was clean and I didn’t have any worry there whatsoever.
Health and safety aside, I was immediately reminded why flying on JetBlue is one of the best ways to cross the country, especially when flying on this aircraft.
The Airbus A321 fleet, including the A321 and A321neo, are incredibly modern and comfortable. I’d flown across the US on four different airlines in two days but when I sat down on the JetBlue flight, it felt like home.
These aircraft feature one of JetBlue’s older in-flight entertainment products but they still offer touch-screen capabilities, high-definition displays, on-demand content, and a map screen.
It also helped that the airline offers 32 inches of legroom in economy on this aircraft.
The front of the aircraft naturally filled first thanks to the new boarding procedure but the aircraft was empty enough where the back started to fill before too many people were settled up front.
Even though it was an empty flight to New York, flight attendants asked passengers to go to their assigned seats first before moving around the cabin.
Flight attendants also reminded passengers of the safety features of the aircraft including its high-efficiency particular air filters, or HEPA filters, and reassuringly said that the aircraft was just cleaned and disinfected.
It was also made clear that wearing a mask was required by federal law.
We departed Los Angeles with around three-quarters of the plane full.
I lucked out and had the middle seat open but not every row was so lucky.
After departure, the entertainment screens showed a video outlining the health and safety features of the aircraft to reassure passengers. Airlines tend to do this at the gate but I was glad to see it on the aircraft right in front of passengers.
The “dos and don’ts” of flying on JetBlue were explained including wearing a face covering…
And don’t crowd the aisle. This one was interesting considering JetBlue had just removed back-to-front boarding and its middle seat block.
Even more messaging was available on the map channel.
This kind of messaging goes a long way to reassure flyers returning to the skies for the first time during the pandemic.
We quickly departed Los Angeles and turned eastbound towards New York. The in-flight service began shortly after takeoff.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that JetBlue had gotten rid of the plastic bag service and was serving actual soft drinks. I even got the full can.
Customers also had a choice of snacks including cookies, chips, Cheez-Its, or a granola bar. I went for the cookies.
The rest of the flight progressed smoothly as most passengers tried to get some sleep in on the five-hour flight.
New York soon came into view and the flight was approaching its natural end.
When we landed, there was a reminder to social distance when deplaning but most didn’t heed that warning. It’s only natural for flyers to get up as soon as the seat belt sign turns off.
Walking off the plane, I noticed JetBlue had installed its own safety placards in the jetway.
The terminal in New York was also way better equipped than in Los Angeles. JetBlue had installed its own hand sanitizers at the gate…
Automated boarding gates were available to reduce contact with the gate agents…
And seats in the gate area were even blocked off, in addition to social distancing placards lining the falls and plexiglass partitions installed at the gate.
Overall, JetBlue did a great job at ensuring passengers are safe in both of its hubs, even though it is shedding off some social distancing efforts as more flyers take to the skies. The flight felt closer to a normal experience but there was still a strong emphasis on health and safety at every turn.