Alaska's New Boarding Process Will Go Into Effect in July
Come July 18, Alaska Airlines promises that your relationship status will change – at least where boarding is involved.
"You may have a complicated relationship with boarding an aircraft," the airline waxed eloquent in a blog announcement published June 6. "On the one hand, it means you will soon settle into your seat and you’re almost on your way. On the other hand, it can sometimes be stressful if you’re not sure when it’s your turn to board."
Alaska plans to change all of that this summer. The procedural updates will begin with the boarding pass, which will feature larger fonts and more streamlined presentation of relevant information. "Your boarding pass is really a guide for your journey," Alaska said in the blog post. "You want to know, first and foremost, where you need to be (your gate) and when you need to be there (your boarding time)."
The next phase of change will take place at the gate, where announcements will now be broadcast on screen displays at each gate. Since most travelers have headphones on these days, the visual alerts will make it far easier for passengers to catch relevant information.
Finally, the boarding process itself is undergoing a complete overhaul. Alaska's five boarding groups – First Class, and Groups A-D – will take turns boarding approximately five minutes apart. The first passengers to enter the plane will be travelers with special needs – families with children under 2, or any guests with special services or require additional time to settle in. Active duty military and first class passengers will follow. Group A passengers include Million Milers, Alaska Mileage Plan MVP Gold 75K and MVP Gold status elites; Group B will seat Alaska Mileage Plan MVPs and Premium Class. Finally, Group C will board all remaining guests who are seated in the back half of the aircraft, brought up by Group D, which encompasses all remaining guests seated toward the front half of the aircraft.
Alaska isn't the only airline hoping to revamp the current boarding process, which is often rife with "gate lice" – passengers who mill about the boarding area well before boarding time. United just began pilot-testing a similar procedure in Chicago, Denver and Los Angeles, which will be rolled out to more locations later this summer.
The boarding process update isn't Alaska's only recent procedural change: the airline introduced basic economy fares in April, and restricted its previously generous change fee policy.