United’s pre-pandemic boarding groups will return this week
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
As with most U.S. airlines, United modified its boarding procedures early during the pandemic, loading flyers from the back of the plane to the front, with the hopes of boosting distance wherever possible.
This week, as Live and Let’s Fly points out, the carrier will once again be boarding flyers based on their assigned number. Passengers are assigned to one of five boarding groups — Group 1 through 5 — depending on their elite status, cabin and the fare they purchased.
United Global Services and Premier 1K members can pre-board, along with select travelers, including customers with disabilities, families with children age two and younger, and active-duty military. Group 1 consists of Platinum and Gold elites and business and first-class flyers, followed by Silver and select co-branded cardholders in Group 2, and all economy flyers in Groups 3 through 5, who board based on their fare type and their location on the plane.
Want more airline-specific news? Sign up for TPG’s free new biweekly Aviation newsletter!
As a spokesperson explained to TPG:
On April 15, we will resume our Better Boarding — our five-group, two-lane boarding process. Last year United temporarily switched to boarding from the back of the aircraft to the front to improve social distancing during boarding. Now that more customers are returning, this can result in customers gathering in the gate area to wait near the boarding door for their row to be called. This gathering defeats the social distancing purpose of back-to-front boarding. We know from recent customer surveys that an orderly boarding experience is one of the things our customers value the most.
While social distancing practices are still helpful in limiting the spread of COVID-19, masks are even more effective, and are now mandated by law in all airports and onboard all planes in the United States. With confusion around back-to-front boarding leading to crowding at the gate, returning to a more familiar group process could actually lead to fewer people gathering, as United points out.
Ultimately, a return to pre-pandemic processes is likely to be a continuing trend. United is hardly the first carrier to return to boarding groups. Last month, JetBlue returned to its pre-pandemic boarding process, while Southwest followed a few weeks later, moving from its temporary 10-person groups to its pre-pandemic 30-flyer clusters.
Featured photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy
Welcome to The Points Guy!
WELCOME OFFER: Up to 100,000 bonus miles
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,040
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X miles on United® purchases
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 80K bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, an additional 20K bonus miles after you spend $10,000 in the first 6 months
- $250 Annual Fee
- Earn 3X miles on United® purchases, 2X miles at restaurants, on select streaming services & all other travel, 1X on all other purchases
- Earn 3X miles on United Airlines purchases
- Earn 2X miles at restaurants and on select streaming services
- Earn 2X miles on all other travel
- Earn 1X mile on all other purchases
- Each year, receive a $125 credit on United® purchases and two 5k-mile anniversary award flight credits. Terms apply.