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The boarding group changes United is now testing

by on Tue October 27, 2015 • No Comment


Last week United Airlines said it’s planning to test changes to its boarding process to simplify it and address complaints.

The tests started this week at Chicago O’Hare Airport, and here’s how one of the tests is configured according to a report from a flyer who experienced the test this week on FlyerTalk:

  • Global Services, disabled and uniformed military
  • United First Class and Premier 1K
  • Premier Platinum and Premier Gold
  • Group 1: Premier Silver and United MileagePlus credit card holders
  • Groups 2 and beyond: Economy Class boarded window first, then middle, then aisle

What’s changing:

  • United First Class and Premier 1K fliers will have their own boarding group (currently, Premier Platinum fliers are lumped in this group)
  • Premier Platinum and Premier Gold fliers will have their own boarding group (currently Premier Gold fliers are lumped in with Premier Silver and credit card holders)
  • Premier Silver and United MileagePlus cardholders board after Gold / Platinum fliers (now, they board at the same time as Gold fliers)
  • There will be 3 lanes – one called a ‘Direct Access’ lane that’s meant to stay clear once boarding starts for any fliers , the other two lanes will alternate each boarding group

This test accomplishes a few things:

  • The number of fliers in each group evens out so it’s less likely the very first or second group will stretch as far is can today
  • There are fewer lanes, so (hopefully) fewer travelers line up in them before their boarding group is called. The idea is as one group boards, the next group lines up in the lane adjacent.
  • Premier Gold and higher fliers are no longer lumped with credit card holders for boarding
  • Credit card holders get a ‘Group 1’ on their boarding pass, which matches Delta’s standard

What it doesn’t do is simplify or reduce the number of groups. In fact there could very well be more groups, and that’s confirmed in an article in the Chicago Tribune which notes an example of possibly having 7 distinct groups.

The idea, United says in the article, is to discourage lining up 15 or 20 minutes before it’s time to board and the tension that creates. And by having fewer lanes there’s no where for later groups to try to line up while the earlier groups are boarding. Whether that actually cuts down on people standing is part of what’s being tested – and we’re not optimistic it will do much to curb that behavior since people are still paranoid about having to gate check a bag.

The demotion here is for United MileagePlus credit card holders, who would no longer board alongside Premier Gold level fliers, and instead board after them.

And there’s no sign yet that families with strollers or car seats can once again board before the masses, like they can on Delta.


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