United Airlines has introduced a new ‘front to back’ deplaning method as part of a raft of measures introduced in recent weeks to make flying safer in the face of the threat posed by COVID-19… Or at least attempt to make it look like flying is safer. The new deplaning method was introduced on May 4 and will last until at least the end of the month – dependent on the threat of the novel Coronavirus at the time and how successful the process proves to work.
In an internal update for flight attendants, United said the temporary changes were being introduced to “promote” social distancing. The process will involve allowing only a small number of people to deplane at a time so that passengers are spread out and not crammed next to one another while they wait to get off an aircraft.
Passengers will be asked to remain seated once the aircraft arrived at the gate rather than standing up and grabbing their carry-on’s as has become customary. Once the aircraft door is open, flight attendants will then announce that around five rows at a time can start deplaning.
Rows will be announced from the front of the plane to the back of the plane, so in theory passengers should have to pass as few people as possible. Passengers will also be asked to practice social distancing even once their row number has been called so this process could make deplaning a significantly longer process.
When passenger numbers are particularly low, flight attendants will be able to call more than five rows forward at a time. This process will well-suited to single-aisle aircraft but flight attendants have been asked to apply the same method on wide-body aircraft as well.
For customers with a tight connection, rather than moving them to the front of the plane before landing, flight attendants will ask everyone else to remain seated so these passengers can make a dash for their next flight.
Along with the ‘front to back’ deplaning process, United has already introduced a ‘back to front’ boarding process with passengers expected to board in small groups. Flight attendants have to wear face masks and starting today, the mandatory wearing of face masks has also been extended to passengers.
If United’s new deplaning process works, it should look something like the viral video of a group of oil rig workers disembarking from a Westjet plane at Calgary airport in August 2019. The workers all waited patiently for the passengers in front to deplane in what might be the calmest scenes of passengers getting off a plane ever witnessed.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.