In October 2017, jetBlue adopted a new boarding system which remains in use as of May 2019. There is a lengthy discussion at FlyerTalk about its practice; FrequentBusinessTraveler.com offered some details as to who gets slotted into which of the General Boarding groups:
- Pre-boarding for customers with disabilities
- Mosaic and Mint® customers
- Group A (Even More® Space customers)
- Courtesy boarding for active military personnel and customers traveling with children in car seats or strollers
- General Boarding, Group B (window seats in the back half of the plane)
- General Boarding, Group C (middle seats in the back and window seats in the front)
- General Boarding, Group D (aisle seats in the back and middle seats in the front)
- General Boarding, Group E (aisle seats in the front)
- All remaining customers
(On E-190 aircraft, there are no middle seats, and there is no Group E.)
Like seating, airlines have learned to monetize boarding order, which has become more important as baggage fees discourage people from checking bags, putting cabin storage at a premium. If you are not a frequent flyer, and do not qualify for a pre-boarding group, are not interested in paying more, it seems you can try choosing a seat in the back to get into a higher priority boarding group.
Some reports say the general boarding group assignment is algorithmic, based on which seats are predicted to be occupied on a particular flight. It would thus be possible for the same seat on the same aircraft to be assigned two different boarding groups based on how full the flight was, but it is hard to gauge whether this is actually the case from mere anecdotal reports. jetBlue says only "Your boarding group is based on your actual seat, not the rows."
Some airlines, including American, Delta, and United, put credit card holders in a slightly preferred group, but jetBlue does not. Other airlines, notably Southwest, assign boarding order based on the order in which you check in, but again, jetBlue does not.
The speed of boarding a plane is not the only consideration an airline has in determining its boarding groups. It wants to make its high revenue and frequent flyers feel special—so that they continue to be high revenue or frequent flyers. It also wants to capture whatever excess revenue they can by upselling boarding order, rewarding passengers who buy a service package, join a club, obtain the credit card, and so on. Uniformed military personnel receiving priority boarding became commonplace on U.S. airlines after September 11, as the airlines wanted to be perceived as patriotic and grateful.
It is quite possible for these secondary considerations to displace the primary one. When I was a frequent flyer on United, there were a couple of occasions when I was flying out of ORD or SFO where the gate agent boarded us by row because over 80% of people on the flight were "Premier" customers.