United Revamps Boarding Process.. Again

by on January 9, 2013 · 41 comments

in United

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United announced plans to update their current boarding process and reduce the number of different groups (which no one seems to follow anyway!). Ever since the merger with Continental, it seems like United is constantly changing how they are boarding planes and the amount of groups they have. Below is the new boarding procedure with only 5 groups.

Simplified Boarding Groups (January 8-9, with full implementation January 10): Starting today, United plans to reduce the number of boarding groups from 7 to 5 (plus pre-boarding). The new boarding group priority will be:

  • Pre-Boarding: Customers with disabilities, then Global Services and uniformed military personnel
  • Group 1: Global Services, Premier 1K, Premier Platinum, premium cabins
  • Group 2: Premier Gold, Star Gold, Premier Silver, Star Silver, MileagePlus Presidential Plus and Club cardholders, MileagePlus Explorer and Awards cardholders
  • Groups 3-5: General boarding
United has new groups for their boarding process.

United has new groups for their boarding process.

Worth noting: If you are traveling on January 9 or 10, and checked in to your flight before United made the change, you can refresh your online boarding pass to see your new boarding group. You can also go to a kiosk to reprint your boarding pass.

Revised Gate Layout with Premium Bypass Lanes (March/April): United will add more boarding lanes – in many cases, one for each boarding group. At nearly every gate, their Premier Access boarding will be comprised of two separate lanes – enabling a dedicated line for groups 1 and 2 respectively. Some of you have already seen this concept, as they are testing this new layout at several gates (in many cases with temporary signage). Below are some of the gates where we are testing this layout:

  • Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) – B8, C16 and C18 (adding two more at a later date)
  • Cleveland (CLE) – C27 and C3
  • Denver (DEN) – B23 and B32
  • Houston (IAH) – C40 and E2
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – 70B and 73
  • New York/Newark (EWR) – C123 and C131
  • San Francisco (SFO) – 73 and 80
  • Washington-Dulles (IAD) – C19 and D7

Hat Tip -Flyertalk 

For comparison, Delta boards all their entire First Class/BusinessElite cabin before inviting elites to board; American boards First Class, Uniformed Military, AAdvantage Executive Platinum and oneworld Emerald members first. What are your opinions on an airline’s boarding process? Should all of First Class board first, or do elite members deserve to board at the same time regardless of what cabin they are seated in?

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Manzil Kohli

    I always love to be the first one to step up and board the plane (unless there are individuals with special needs like the ones with kids, disabilities etc.).

    Having said that, I sincerely believe that earning miles and an elite status and then sustaining that status is a tough job. Allowing elite members to board with Business / First is a great way to reward us lesser mortals (elite members traveling in coach) in a tacit manner. :)

  • TMC

    i travel with young children and i am shocked that airlines no longer allow preboard for families.

  • Jeff R.

    There are some that still do. Delta did it on all four flights I took a couple of weeks ago. When I flew LAN recently with my kids, the gate agent actively went around the boarding lounge making sure everyone with small children pre-boarded. I know folks complain about this, but in the end it really does speed up the process and make life easier for everyone, including the folks without kids.

  • Oldsmoboi

    There are lots of Star Silver, they shouldn’t be in Group 2.

  • SEM

    A lot of the time they don’t advertise it, you just ask and they let you go…

  • Monique

    I think airlines should consider advanced boarding for those who check bags. I know it sounds crazy as why would this group of people need to board early but if the idea is to increase revenue via the checked bag option, I think more people are likely to consider it, if it includes early boarding before the masses.

  • Eric

    Another devaluation of Gold status. Terrific.

  • JT

    I don’t understand why the major carriers don’t follow Southwest’s boarding process. It’s BY FAR the most efficient, takes the least amount of time, and obviously most orderly. While I haven’t experienced the new lanes mentioned for United, the status/general boarding lanes are a joke at AA, for example. No one obeys them.

    You should be given a number and you line up and board accordingly. People with the highest status get the first numbers (maybe go by miles within status tiers) and general boarding gets a number based on when they check in. It’s very simple and assures the plane is boarded in a timely manner.

  • Jtgray

    I would argue taht this number should be instead assigned based on an efficient algorithm…i.e. all window seats starting from the rear of the plane going forward, then middle seats, etc… I suppose those algorithms are screwed up by people showing up late.

  • Question!

    what is the difference between star silver and silver premier?

  • สุภา วงค์เมือง

    Best part of being first to board is watching the “parade” go by.

  • AKold

    There are more credit card holders.

  • TMC

    i should have stated that i mainly fly United from EWR and AA from JFK and unfortunately i have been turned away fromt he gate more often than not when i inquire.
    Agree international airlines have always been accomodating.

  • SHsBolt

    Star (alliance) silver (not on United, but a partner airline) vs. United specifically (Silver Premiere)

  • Joy

    Does UA’s system already know who has their credit cards, or do you have to show the card when you board?

  • mm

    If you are flying with someone who is disabled or have a disability, do they let you preboard with them too?

  • noone

    Let’s see…as a Silver, I can basically hope to get Econ plus on the day of boarding (not very comforting) and basically get all of the other benefits if I pick up a UAL credit card. Rather than focus all of my business travel actually on UAL in 2013 (which is what I’ve done for the last 2 years), I think I’ll pick up the credit card and give my business travel to Delta. UAL clearly doesn’t care about their lower tier elite.

  • noone

    Exactly. Group 2 will be one huge mosh pit of Silver and credit card holders all jockeying for their so-called “rights” to board first. Once you put your elites on the same level as the credit card holders, there is no incentive to pick up elite status in the lower tiers.

  • Andrew

    Silver – Cost to Coast 4X a year – Really not that much in the air.. I don’t even consider Silver “Elite”

  • Andrew

    CC Holders don’t get Economy Comfort… From a revenue standpoint – Silver’s aren’t exactly the money makers for airlines.

  • Andrew

    As a 1K, I love the sounds of the new boarding process!

  • Andrew

    Why do they need extra time? To put all there bags away? I think it’s a joke to let kids over 2 or 3 extra time.

  • Andrew

    Not to mention how loud they are.. Today in 21F – EWR-SNA, Row 22 2 Indian’s in D and E with 1 kid each on there lap – absolute nightmare.

  • Andrew

    This is not devaluing Gold… This doesn’t change the boarding process at all for Gold’s… As a gold you are likely to be in row 7-20, so you would be boarding at about the same time as this new system…

  • Eric

    How is it not devaluing gold when now Gold will board at the same time as silvers and credit card holders?

  • Jeff

    If this sticks it’ll be a huge blow to the value of United Gold. Really? A $95 credit card gets you in the same group as someone that travels 50k miles with you? What a joke.

  • Jeff2

    That is the point – Silver are really money makes, so why allow them to board with Gold level.

  • Jeff2

    having been through the chain of tiers – Gold, then Platinum, and now 1K – my opinion is that Platinum and Gold should be boarding group 2 and Silver and credit cards should be boarding group 3.

    It’s already a mess with each boarding group with all the people squeezing to board. Making the boarding groups larger (by reducing the number) makes it even more of a mess and will have people crowding around the boarding area making the whole process more of a mess than it already is.

    As someone else already pointed out, it will make boarding group 2 horrible – so many people at one time. And it is pushing all the Platinum members up to group 1 – increasing the size of that boarding group.

  • Jlanza29

    Here’s my take on this …. why is it “We” in the USA are the only ones that have boarding groups, etc., how many times have you been in Europe or Asia and the announcement is made … Flight ### to Prague is now boarding … and just get up and get on !!!! what’s the problem with that ????? Do you really, really need to feel special !!!!! Come on now … we’re all adults ….. we all want to the same thing … to get on and leave on time ….. Yes, I understand you take care of those who keep the airlines in business, but don’t you think, club admission, special security lines, no fees for bags and other perks enough ?????? I rather just get on and go !!!!

  • Pdmorse1@

    So someone like myself who flies 60k mikes per year and 1mm lifetime gets to board with all United credit card holders, a wonderful benefit for all my loyalty.

  • JRA

    TPG – I am United PrPlat and am contemplating making the move due to lack of wifi on their planes. Do you have any insight as to when they will be rolling it out on a majority of their routes?

  • Hua

    A published benefit of Star Alliance gold is priority boarding together with the first/business cabin. I’m only a Star Silver, but I think it’s a little messed up that UA won’t even allow Star Gold’s (let alone their own Premier Golds) to board with Group 1.

    Should probably be:

    Group 1: GS/1K
    Group 2: First/Business, Plat, Gold (since these are *G themselves) and Star Gold
    Group 3: Silver, Star Silver, credit card holders
    Groups 4&5: General boarding

  • UA Flyer

    On many flights, group two will comprise of over 50% of the passengers.
    My UA Gold just lost one of its main perks – guarantee of bin space for my carry on :(

  • Jamanvan

    You get in the group when you pay. Showing the card gets you nothing if your boarding pass doesnt have the correct group.

  • Aus1k

    but in the US bag fees, delayed luggage and lost items have made it impossible and uncivilized to fly. In Europe and Australia people continue to check their luggage which make the process much more seamless

  • Andrew

    “What have you done for me lately”

  • Njonsey

    I understand over the next 18 months or so. They have announced the roll out plans, pretty sure

  • Alex

    Yeah early boarding is really about overhead space. If you could guarantee me the spot directly above or infront of my seat would be open for my bag, I would gladly be the last one on the plane.

    PS- Aeroflot does “everybody get up and get on” for ALL Cabins (even on long-haul flights) and it’s a total nightmare. Plus I have SkyPriority so it bugs me a ton ;)

  • Aqd4349

    I just made Gold and I am very disappointed that I am now (and again) boarding with the same group as CC holders. This is a HUGE setback to the Gold Premiere Status. It is WAY cheaper to pay the $95 fee than to pay for all those tickets to rack up the 50K+ miles needed for Gold. This one more reason to leave UNITED.

  • Ben Brooks

    If you pull back from elite tiers and just ask “what is the value of flying?” the answer is you are buying time. If you didn’t fly from point A to B you would have to drive, train, bus or boat it. So at the end of the day having reliable operations is THE key driver of customer value in an airline (I wish the media would talk about this MORE). If you schedule your assets fairly aggressively (planes don’t make money on the ground) you need to leave on-time to arrive on-time. (note: network airlines in the US can’t manage their operations worth a crap and build in LOTS of block time meaning they need more planes to fly their schedules, driving up their costs). All this said to highlight the importance of consistent boarding that is as fast as possible.

    There are many ways to board an airplane and equally as many opinions about which one is best. Consulting shops have found that most are fairly similar (SWA is the exception). The wrinkle is how do you satisfy elites and high paying customers and still be as efficient as possible? Add to this that airlines checked bag fees cause more people to carry on and slow down boarding.

    As a UA 1K I think the boarding process needs help. There is so much confusion at the gates and elites thinking they should be in a group that they are not. I would have started with simply putting $200 flat screens above the boarding door showing which group was boarding rather than relying on crappy intercom systems (1960 called…..).
    The multiple lanes will actually help a lot and frankly is a page out of the SWA playbook.

    UA’s CEO is clear that operational reliability is still a big challenge and is higher priority than marketing/brand and hard product, which will be enhanced after ops and technology get sorted. As a customer I’m glad he’s the CEO and gets this! I just wish they would roll this out faster.

  • Thattravelguy

    I am a million miler on UA (with 5 or 6 1k years) but only travel about 50k to 60k miles/year now. Hate that someone with a $95 credit card can now board the same time as I can and take up all the bin space. So now I will have to hover at front of line when group 2 called.

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