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United Airlines

United Is Testing A New Boarding Procedure

United Is Testing A New Boarding Procedure
Jackie Reddy

A trial of a new boarding procedure – one that United hopes will create a better passenger experience – is underway at the carrier’s hub in LA. The trial comes just five years after the carrier last changed its boarding procedures and uses simplified lanes to guide passengers onto aircraft.

United Airlines has announced that it is considering making some changes to its boarding procedures, Skift reports. Just five years on from its last boarding overhaul – which saw the carrier designate passengers into multiple separate groups using specific lanes – United is actively testing yet another new method, one that it believes will help to improve the boarding process.

A spokesperson for United confirmed to the outlet that the carrier is actively testing out this latest procedure at its Los Angeles hub.

According to a fact sheet issued by United, under this trial system, “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.” Passengers will be guided to their lane by signage within the gate area.

This latest method revolves around passengers’ MileagePlus Premier® status or group, but even under this different system, elite customers would still be able to board first and the carrier has also advised that “Pre-boarding will still be available to select customers.”

United believes that there are multiple benefits to this new boarding system. It says that thanks to the simplified lanes, passengers will no longer need to line up at the gate prior to boarding. Additionally, it says that smaller group sizes will be enforced for certain flights. This, in turn, will equate to a less crowded boarding experience.

The carrier explains that “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.”

United believes that this new procedure could also be more efficient. “Following priority boarding groups, we’ll board customers sitting in window seats first and then middle and aisle seats,” it adds.

A spokesperson for the carrier told the outlet, “Our customers have told us they want a better experience when boarding and we are looking for ways to improve it for them.”

View Comments (16)


  1. Artpen100

    February 12, 2018 at 8:01 am

    I agree that lines clogging up and mixing together has made for a confusing and sometimes frustrating boarding experience. I’m usually in group 1, with group 2s (currently, that is one lane, with 3,4,5 next to it) also mixed in, and you have to be assertive to cut through the pack to board with group 1. So this may help. But in some airports, there is so little room, there is just a big cluster of everyone in front of the lanes, and that may remain the case. SAN, for example. So we shall see. People still want to get on early so they can find carryon space.

  2. CaptHolic

    February 12, 2018 at 10:08 am

    This will not stop the gate lice from crowding the gate 30 min prior to boarding… THAT is the real problem…
    Maybe it is the routes I fly (type of fellow passengers) that makes me jaded…

  3. eng3

    February 12, 2018 at 11:51 am

    This has been around for several months at ORD as well. This is nearly the same as smaller airports that only have two lines (12 and 345). AT those airports there is always a mob because the lines arent separated and people that actually should be boarding are stuck at the back pushing their way to the front. This new system basically brings that issue to all airports.

  4. Rebelyell

    February 13, 2018 at 1:10 pm

    I always liked the United system of having multiple lines. It allowed people to queue up, which they want to do.

    The information about those in window seats being able to get on first and claim all the overhead space is valuable. I don’t like window seats, but on those rare cases that I fly United that is what I will pick.

  5. Steiny

    February 16, 2018 at 4:10 am

    This seems identical to the (old) Delta system with a Sky Priority lane and a general boarding lane. I say old because at some airports, they have lanes for each zone (premium, Sky Priority, 1, and 2/3. The newer method seems to work better, which sounds like it is the old United method. Until the airlines remove baggage fees, there will always be a rush for overhead bins, leading to the huge queues. Either that, or load us all in seat-outfitted cargo bins and slide the bins on the plane like they do for luggage on widebodies.

  6. Mike Rivers

    February 16, 2018 at 4:47 am

    I never liked tying boarding to how much I paid for my ticket. Because I always buy cheap tickets and reserve an aisle seat when I can, now I’ll be assured a place of honor in one of the last boarding groups.When a flight is croweded, I’m always stressed that I’ll have my carry-on suitcase taken away from me, and this new method increases that risk.

    I can live with letting first class passengers board first, but I always favored the old school method of boarding from the rear first. That allows for better monitoring of aisle blockage and throttle the inlet to keep boarding moving. When I’m heading for row 20, there are always people who have boarded before me still looking for their seats and trying to stow their luggage, keeping me from getting settled.

    Yeah, I know, Flyer Talk is for people who are premium flyers and get those perks, and I used to be one too, when I had a job that involved a lot of flying. Now that I’m retired, they don’t give me a “thanks for all your business” status and I’m in the peanut gallery.

    Speaking of the peanut gallery, I like Southwest’s boarding method. I check in as closely as I can to 24 hours ahead of my flight and I never have a problem getting a reasonable seat, stashing my bag, and getting out of the way so others can board.

  7. Hankerdoo

    February 16, 2018 at 4:56 am

    Terrible idea. Lots of studies have been done on boarding efficiency, however, the major flaw in all the studies is status. People in First and with FF status want to get on first, no matter where they sit. This “new” process is the same way AA boards and it creates a massive pileup at the gate and in the concourse for anyone trying to walk by. People with section 4 seating will never sit down until 3 is called – they will stand up and crowd the front of the line by the gate (usually staring at their ticket like it’s going to change). While I didn’t love UAs way of doing it – it is nice to get folks moved out of the way. Especially if a lane 1 user and you don’t want to show up exactly at boarding time.

    Charge for carry on bags that don’t fit under your seat – make your first checked bag free. That would do a great deal to speeding up boarding and get a lot of folks checking bags that don’t due to the fee.

  8. jrpallante

    February 16, 2018 at 5:51 am

    Nobody loads a plane faster or more efficiently than Southwest. Why do no other airlines learn from them? In can work with assigned seating too. Simply give lower numbers to those in window seats and higher numbers to those in aisle seats.

  9. c1ue

    February 16, 2018 at 6:54 am

    Without going into DYKWIA territory, the profusion of credit card based Group 2 privileges has significantly degraded the boarding experience for MP Gold members.
    Prior to spend minimums, this would be perfectly acceptable and understandable.
    However, MP Gold members are spending a minimum of $6K/year with United; I’d think this should qualify them over the vast majority of credit card spenders?

  10. upintheair3

    February 16, 2018 at 9:18 am

    People who don’t need to line up (groups 1 & 2) line up anyway, why I have no clue though they claim it’s about overhead bin space but in those two groups there is plenty of bin space no matter when you board during this sequence. United, who I can only speak of, has a mess on their hands regarding their boarding lanes. What is most annoying is people extending their line through the corridors where other passengers are walking to get to their gates and they have to force their way through these people. It happens way to often at LAX

  11. daveewald

    February 16, 2018 at 9:37 am

    Haha, “we’ll board customers sitting in window seats first and then middle and aisle seats”, everything old is new again….I don’t recall which carrier(s), but that used to be the ‘best’ way of boarding.

    As for changing the lane boarding system. I thought 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 was a huge improvement when it was instituted. It won’t apply to me, but I can imagine Lane 2 will get congested when after they get group 2 through.

  12. GregMM

    February 16, 2018 at 11:23 am

    The window, middle, aisle IS the current boarding method. All they’re changing is going from 5 lanes back to 2.

  13. DonFlynn

    February 17, 2018 at 10:23 am

    GregMM – Yes it does not seem to be very different or innovative.

    The idea I have had for a long time may be what Mike Rivers is referring to:

    >>I can live with letting first class passengers board first, but I always favored the
    old school method of boarding from the rear first.

    I never remember this being done but if it was, why wouldn’t it work? Ok, let the premium boarders get on first. And then everyone else lines up, rear seats first. No waiting for the bonehead in aisle 10 if you are in aisle 30. Where is the downside of this?

    And while we are at it, why no have the overhead bins correspond to the people in the seats below them? So, aisle 22, seats A, B, and C has its own designanted bin. And no one should be allowed to put their stuff in there until all passengers are seated.

    jrpallante – I have never flown Southwest but from what I read, they totally rock in every other category (except price) and so why wouldn’t they be head and shoulders above their competitors on this one as well?!

  14. Marshann

    February 17, 2018 at 12:20 pm

    It always bothers me that my gold elite status just doesn’t count for boarding priority. Gold elite is fairly difficult to reach, and is given group 2 status for boarding, the same as those with a United credit card. I always ask myself why I bother – why not just get a credit card and fly other airlines?

  15. bri451

    February 20, 2018 at 7:52 am

    It still boggles my mind. Whenever I travel to Asia I see how their airlines can load a giant widebody in 15 minutes. They have a priority boarding call, and a main boarding call, that’s it. However, we can’t load a CRJ in that time < 20 min. All this lane, priority, group, stuff is just games. If they really wanted to load a plane faster they would get rid of all the self loading overhead bags, which is what really slows everything down. Groups make no difference at all.

  16. AAdamE

    February 21, 2018 at 11:20 am

    @Marshann you should. AA Gold gets group 4, CC holders get group 5, so at least you board before the CC folks & even folks who paid for a premium economy seat.

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