United’s Trying a New Way to Board Its Planes

Feb 13, 2018

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Airlines and passengers alike are constantly trying to streamline the headache otherwise known as the boarding process, sometimes with science, and other times with psychology. In 2014, popular TV show Mythbusters tested out the WILMA (Window, Middle, Aisle) method, among several others. The overall consensus seems to be that the most efficient boarding process also happens to be the one we all hate the most.

Just one year after American Airlines overhauled its boarding processes (with a fair amount of pushback), United is making its own attempt to improve the process by testing out a new boarding method at a handful of select airports.

United’s current boarding process involves a complicated mess of five lines at each gate, each marked for Groups 1-5. Human nature seems to go into overdrive at United gates, where the sight of one or two other passengers in line is enough to drive most people to begin queuing up well before gate agents even come close to announcing boarding time. (To be fair, this happens with pretty much any airline, anywhere.)

No doubt in an effort to curb this tendency, here is, in its own words, what UA is doing:

Simplified lanes

You will see some new boarding lane signs in the gate area that will guide you through the boarding process. There will be two lanes: to begin, Group 1 will board through Lane 1 and Group 2 will board through Lane 2. The remaining Groups 3-5 will then board through Lane 2 when called, and Groups 1 and 2 may continue to board through Lane 1. We ask that you wait until your group has been called before lining up.

Changes to boarding groups

The current boarding order may change for select flights, and our gate agents will guide you through the new process. Pre-boarding will still be available to select customers. Please wait until pre-boarding or your MileagePlus Premier® status or group is called before lining up. In the meantime, please make yourself comfortable, and we’ll let you know when we’re ready to board your group.

How will you benefit?

  • No need to line up before your group is called: Simplified lanes with new signs will allow you to relax at the gate or within the airport longer.
  • Smaller group sizes for select flights: With fewer customers in your group, you’ll experience less crowding while boarding the aircraft.
  • More efficient boarding: Following priority boarding groups, we’ll board customers sitting in window seats first and then middle and aisle seats.
  • Less crowding: Fewer lines will create more space and easier access to the boarding door for customers exiting the plane from the previous flight and during pre-boarding.

Let’s hope the airline’s new process helps everyone relax a little bit at the gate.

No news yet on which airports are testing out the new boarding process. However, the airline says it will collect feedback through interviews at the airports, and passengers may receive an email survey after their flight is over. 

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