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United Airlines Introduces “Enhancements” to the Boarding Process

This week, United Airlines unveiled a new and improved boarding process designed to give passengers “added space, more time to relax and less time spent in line.” The new boarding protocols, which give earlier boarding for some passengers with elite status were already implemented at LAX earlier this year and rolled out system-wide beginning on September 18.

United Airlines has a new plan to eliminate gate lice, those pesky and persistent passengers who clog the boarding process by hovering near the jetway door long before their boarding group is called (often blocking other passengers from boarding at the appropriate time in the process). On Tuesday, a new, streamlined boarding process was introduced at more than 1,000 gates across the airline’s route map.

“The boarding process was one of the top areas customers told us they wanted improved,” United Airlines Vice President Sarah Murphy said in a statement announcing the new boarding procedures. “We listened to customers and employees as we tested a variety of processes on thousands of flights until we found a better boarding process that results in less time spent waiting in lines, improved communication and a better way to recognize our Premier customers while balancing out the number of passengers in each boarding group.”

According to the airline, the simplified system will employ two lines rather than the current five boarding lanes. The new process will rely heavily on digital displays and alerts sent through the United App to let flyers know when its their turn to board.

The new boarding process also offers an upgrade of sorts to passengers with elite status as well as active duty military members. MileagePlus members with Premier 1K status will now be eligible to pre-board rather than lining up with group one passengers. MileagePlus members with Premier Gold status will now board the plane with group one passengers rather than group two. Active duty military members no longer need to be in uniform to qualify for military pre-boarding. United officials say that these changes will help honor the airline’s most loyal customers as well as service members, but perhaps more importantly, will help to eliminate congestion and better balance the number of passengers in each boarding group.

The airline has been testing the improved boarding process at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) since February. The legacy carrier says the changes have been met with “overwhelmingly positive feedback” from both passengers and employees. Although the boarding process has been simplified in many ways, the airline has made a video tutorial available for passengers who would like to familiarize themselves with the new boarding procedures before arriving at the gate.

[Photo: Shutterstock]

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LimeySD September 24, 2018

I find it difficult to believe that anyone who pays for first class routinely is not already a 1K. F anf J fares get a 3X PQM multiplier which reduces 1K qualification to effectively a little over 30,000 miles. This is the equivalent of flying a cross-country, round-trip itinerary every other month or perhaps 2 international trips. How many first class ticket buyers who don't become 1K's are really affected? not many by my estimate. The lowly economy only 1K flyer generates more revenue, especially year-over-year recurring revenue, than the one-time or occasional first class flyer. I am happy to see UA start to recognize the value in frequent fliers. Now if we could only get them to elevate the standing of the GPU...

FullFare September 22, 2018

I pay for only first class fares and they have demoted me from the first boarding group by giving "pre-board" priority to so-called elite (1K) flyers who didn't pay what I did for my flight (they're in economy). This is not trivial, because the airlines created this "gate lice"problem the day they instituted fees for checking bags. What did they expect the passengers to do? They all want to get on to avoid having to pay the fee. For many of us, it was always we just didn't want the airline to lose our bag. Regardless, it is a dumb move in the eyes of those of us who pay for first class fares. We will be walking with our feet. I accumulated over 2.1 million lifetime miles on United, and it appears that I do not mean much to the airline. Really bad.