My question is nominally similar to how are boarding groups determined? which was closed as a duplicate of Why do airlines seat people the way they do? but neither seem to answer my question and I feel like a lot has changed in the past few years.

US airlines now tend to board by group/zone and these zones have seemingly nothing to do with where you are sitting. On jetBlue, I believe, the first to board are people who paid extra (first class, early boarding etc) or who have elevated status for being a frequent flyer.

Given I don't travel enough to gain preferred treatment and I don't want to pay more, is there anything I can do to be able to board earlier on jetBlue flights? For example, does checking in online or earlier/late influence the zone? What about how the ticket is purchased (over the phone or online with jetBlue, Expedia, or a travel agent) or how it is paid for (e.g., jetBlue credit card)?

Are the criteria used to create the zones publicly available?

  • @choster When I booked through my employer's travel agency, I got a much better spot than I've ever on my own. May 6, 2019 at 18:27
  • Isn’t it just a matter of check-in order?
    – jcaron
    May 6, 2019 at 18:45
  • @jcaron maybe, I don't know that is why I am asking. Do you have any evidence that it is?
    – StrongBad
    May 6, 2019 at 18:48
  • @AzorAhai I bet they sold you a government fare which behaves as a full-fare economy class ticket (Y class). Depending on the airline, you often get bonus FF miles and segments as part of the deal too.
    – user71659
    May 6, 2019 at 21:22
  • @user71659 I have no idea May 6, 2019 at 22:16

2 Answers 2


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:

  1. Pre-boarding for customers with disabilities
  2. Mosaic and Mint® customers
  3. Group A (Even More® Space customers)
  4. Courtesy boarding for active military personnel and customers traveling with children in car seats or strollers
  5. General Boarding, Group B (window seats in the back half of the plane)
  6. General Boarding, Group C (middle seats in the back and window seats in the front)
  7. General Boarding, Group D (aisle seats in the back and middle seats in the front)
  8. General Boarding, Group E (aisle seats in the front)
  9. 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.

  • 2
    Is group E supposed to be Aisle seats in the font? Otherwise it seems like an extension of group D that doesn't entirely make sense. May 6, 2019 at 21:43
  • @RoddyoftheFrozenPeas probably a typo. May 7, 2019 at 3:49
  • @RoddyoftheFrozenPeas Sorry, should be fixed now.
    – choster
    May 7, 2019 at 16:13

FWIW, the groups listed above are just guidelines. The last two times I flew, I had window seats in the rear of the aircraft (an A320), and I still got assigned to "C" boarding group.

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