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United's Current Boarding Process (with Wiki) [Revised, May 2013]

United's Current Boarding Process (with Wiki) [Revised, May 2013]

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Old Oct 23, 17, 2:26 am   -   Wikipost
Please read: This is a community-maintained wiki post containing the most important information from this thread. You may edit the Wiki once you have been on FT for 90 days and have made 90 posts.
 
Last edit by: aacharya
Wiki Link
Source: https://hub.united.com/en-us/News/Co...g-process.aspx

Pre-Boarding
  • Customers with Disabilities
  • Global Services
  • Uniformed Military Personnel
  • Families with Children Age Two and Under

Premier Access Boarding
  • Group 1: Premier 1K, Premier Platinum, BusinessFirst, and First.
  • Group 2: Premier Gold, Star Gold, Premier Silver*, MileagePlus Presidential Plus, Club, Explorer and Awards, purchased Premier Access

*A Star Alliance Silver who is not a Premier Silver is not eligible for Premier Access boarding.

General boarding (Window Seats, then Middle Seats, then Aisle)
  • Group 3 - Window Seats
  • Group 4 - Middle Seats (Aisle Seats on UA Express)
  • Group 5 - Aisle Seats

Note: If you’re traveling with a companion and one of you has a higher boarding status, you both may board with the earlier group.

Note: Self Boarding Gates are being tested at the following gates...
  • IAH - Gate C25/C26 - See Post 2960, Includes YouTube video from CO777DAL
  • IAH - Gate E4 - Old test from pmCO days, See Thread Here
  • BOS - Self boarding gates are now back in *LIMITED* use at least at gates B25 and B26


sUA Boarding Times by Aircraft (AFA)
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Old Jul 27, 13, 12:54 pm
  #3046  
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 6,961
Flew on a full 767 from ORD and it was insane. No boarding lanes, and the crowd spilled out in front of the moving walkway and walkways at least 10 minutes prior to boarding, leading to some shouting from cart drivers.

A family piled themselves onto the floor on the premier access carpet and refused to move until they were asked to show their boarding card and told to move over to boarding area 2 waiting area.

By the time boarding began, there were about 80 people behind me (I did try and count). I had actually been one of the very first by accident due to a gate change and random loitering on my part which ended up being a lucky accident, however at least 15 people pushed ahead of me, and another group started a side line into group 1.

I was in fact about number 3 on board; the GA let the first two people on board who had walked in front of all of us (and were not apparently GS as per the conversation) but by the time she reached me she was visibly fed up with all the gate crashers and was sending them away.

The announcement about card holders having priority boarding is confusing, and I can see why they think that they are special, when they are actually in group 2 behind a lot of people.

The worst was special needs boarding; a sign did flash 'disability boarding' but nobody came to assist anyone (a few people were waiting for GAs to find them, as LH does) One of the very last passengers boarded needed an aisle chair and I found it very poorly done for him. Of anyone, I think that he should definitely have been one of the first on board, instead of left to the end.

My only solace was imagining the LH GA's glee for all the connecting passengers when they landed in Germany and would have been banned from taking all those carry on on board the LH planes.
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Old Jul 28, 13, 10:26 am
  #3047  
 
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: Denver, CO
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You have to laugh....

We were in the cattle lanes (Group 1/2/3/4/5) @ LAX and watched a woman and her three kids in line for Group 3. (Front of line).
Her son was rolling around on the floor in front of the boarding lanes when boarding was called - he already had been playing w/his sisters prior to boarding, but not terribly disruptive.

When the Gate Agent said "ma'am, you may want to take your son's hand so he doesn't get hurt" she replied "I can't he has ADHD".

WOW. Makes me wonder - should she have boarded w/disabled so she could get him settled down before the crowds? Seriously - either he gets trampled for having ADHD, or she can be a parent and exercise some control, or she can get seated earlier and strap him in. It is amazing what our society's social behaviors have become.
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Old Jul 28, 13, 10:37 am
  #3048  
 
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Originally Posted by SFO 1K View Post
WOW. Makes me wonder - should she have boarded w/disabled so she could get him settled down before the crowds? Seriously - either he gets trampled for having ADHD, or she can be a parent and exercise some control, or she can get seated earlier and strap him in. It is amazing what our society's social behaviors have become.
^ ^ OT but I saw a lot of that in my high-school-principal days. And there was the young eighth-grader transferring into our school who announced cheerfully "I have ADHD."

20 or so years later, not that long ago, I saw his name in the old town's paper after he was arrested for stabbing an "acquaintance" on a street corner. A little bit of effective parenting might have made a difference.
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Old Jul 28, 13, 5:29 pm
  #3049  
 
Join Date: Dec 2012
Location: SFO, formerly of ORD
Programs: MileagePlus Premier 1K
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Here's yet another proposal to fix the boarding process.

Ultimately, a boarding group is a reserved spot in line. What's so nice is that you can sit down while you're "in line," and still get to be where you should be. So it's a life-improver. It clearly doesn't help the airline, since random boarding is just as efficient in unless we count the more advanced boarding methods (individual delay distribution).

The larger a given group is, the less advantageous it becomes to stay in your seat because all of a sudden, your place within the group becomes just as important as the group's place in the complete order.

To improve the boarding process, an airline should attempt to make each boarding group small and consistently-sized. The consistency is incredibly important because people decide to louse around based on perception more than reality.

We all know that the percentage of elites will change throughout the year (as more people reach status) and throughout a given day or week (as frequent flyers tend to group around certain flights like the 6AM Monday departures out of ORD). It therefore makes absolutely no sense to keep all of the elites in the same two groups regardless of the flight time, because as we all know that group can vary in size so dramatically.

Since United should know roughly the distribution of elites, windows, middles, and aisles for every flight, my suggestion is to aim for a certain number of passengers per boarding group, and then allocate the various priority levels to the group numbers by a simple count. The order remains fixed:

GS
First
BusinessFirst
Business
1K
Platinum
Gold
Silver
Credit Cards
Window
Middle
Aisle

Or however else they want to do it. The important part is, the order stays the same between flights, but the boarding number assigned to each does not. Let's say that the ideal number per group is 20 passengers (this seems a little too high to me, but might be a good balance).

On a given flight, if GS through Business is roughly 20 people, then they would get one group. If on another flight the total number of premium cabin and elite flyers is roughly 20, then they would get one group.

From United's side, there would need to be a script that runs before check-in begins that checks the count of each boarding preference level (including companions, as best as possible). It then starts populating Group 1 from the top of the list until its count is greater than or equal to 20. It then starts population Group 2 in the same fashion, and so on until it runs out of passengers.

The number of groups would be dependent directly on the number of passengers onboard, so the groups on half-full flights would be the same size as those on full flights. This creates consistency, which should create trust in the system. (Yes, I'm an optimist sometimes).

The way that it is used now, there is no advantage to a number system because the number is just a proxy for the priority level. By making the system dynamic, the true value of boarding group numbers can be realized because it allows a level of abstraction between the boarding order and the actual number of passengers involved.
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Old Jul 28, 13, 7:35 pm
  #3050  
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^^ while i love your idea, do you honestly believe that UA has the IT prowess to code such a system? if so i have a beach house in Arizona that is on the market, you might be a prime buyer.
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Old Jul 28, 13, 9:24 pm
  #3051  
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Originally Posted by jacroweORD View Post
fly to toronto and/or montreal on a UAL puddle jumper...drop in a few vancouver flts...and yes..it is damn insane...

flt to montreal this week was 2400 and that was for M, not even refundable...no first class either...

(all from ORD)
If we ever meet up, I'm buying a round. For that much money, I'd find another way - I just couldn't spend that kind of money on a flight, when I could fly to the other side of the world...
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Old Jul 28, 13, 10:08 pm
  #3052  
 
Join Date: Aug 2011
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Originally Posted by ChrisMD123 View Post
Here's yet another proposal to fix the boarding process.
Dynamic groups have been floated here a few times.

For me, the biggest problem with them is the problem of people's expectations. When it comes down to it, this creates an experience that is far too inconsistent. As others have pointed out, what will happen is a miserable mess of folks who think they belong in a different group, etc. I think these issues are fatal to what I agree could be a pretty good option.
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Old Jul 28, 13, 11:49 pm
  #3053  
 
Join Date: Nov 2011
Location: ORD
Programs: UAL 1K, Starwood Platinum
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Originally Posted by aacharya View Post
If we ever meet up, I'm buying a round. For that much money, I'd find another way - I just couldn't spend that kind of money on a flight, when I could fly to the other side of the world...
ur on...if i don't end up making 1K and my spend is that high i will need someone to help drown my sorrows as i do think as bad as it can be now compared to how it used to be, it could be a heck of a lots worse!
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Old Jul 30, 13, 6:35 pm
  #3054  
txp
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
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Why does boarding take so long at UA?

I noticed QF manages to complete their entire boarding process in 20 minutes or less on domestic flights within OZ, for both 737 and 767 aircraft. Usual aircraft turnaround time on QF is 40 minutes. UA schedules 35 minutes boarding for the 737 and 50 minutes for the 767, and turnaround time usually exceeds one hour. Why such a big difference? Surely by getting rid of so many boarding groups, UA could increase a/c turnaround time and efficiency. Is this being considered?
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Old Jul 30, 13, 6:38 pm
  #3055  
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It all goes back to the concept of Premier Access, making everyone feel special, and letting 1/3 to 1/2 of the plane board through the "special lane".
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Old Jul 30, 13, 6:39 pm
  #3056  
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: San Francisco Bay Area
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Perhaps elite boarding slows things down slightly, but I don't think that's the main issue. It's the fact that people still try to take too many carry-ons on board. Even my soft-sided bag which can often times fit underneath the seat, they still insisted on gate checking. On the A319 I was flying, everyone in Group 5 had to gate check their bags. The only reason I was in Group 5 is because I didn't get to the gate until 20 minutes before departure.
We were all left standing in the jetway while they fiddled around with tagging the bags and finally gave us claim checks. This wasted at least 10 minutes. In the end, they closed the door about 5 minutes prior to sched and pushed back 2 minutes early.

Without the gate checking, they would have completed boarding in under 15 minutes.
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Old Jul 30, 13, 6:43 pm
  #3057  
txp
 
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Originally Posted by EIPremier View Post
Perhaps elite boarding slows things down slightly, but I don't think that's the main issue. It's the fact that people still try to take too many carry-ons on board. Even my soft-sided bag which can often times fit underneath the seat, they still insisted on gate checking. On the A319 I was flying, everyone in Group 5 had to gate check their bags. The only reason I was in Group 5 is because I didn't get to the gate until 20 minutes before departure.
We were all left standing in the jetway while they fiddled around with tagging the bags and finally gave us claim checks. This wasted at least 10 minutes. In the end, they closed the door about 5 minutes prior to sched and pushed back 2 minutes early.

Without the gate checking, they would have completed boarding in under 15 minutes.
I think you are right. This argues for eliminating bag fees (and possibly introducing a carry on fee). The upshot for UA is that by reducing boarding time to 20 minutes they can get more flights out of the same a/c and increase efficiency. This should more than make up for the lost bag fee revenue.
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Old Jul 30, 13, 6:59 pm
  #3058  
 
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Originally Posted by txp View Post
I think you are right. This argues for eliminating bag fees (and possibly introducing a carry on fee). The upshot for UA is that by reducing boarding time to 20 minutes they can get more flights out of the same a/c and increase efficiency. This should more than make up for the lost bag fee revenue.
+1000. Charge for carry on. Reduce fee for checked bags.
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Old Jul 30, 13, 7:04 pm
  #3059  
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Originally Posted by 5khours View Post
+1000. Charge for carry on. Reduce fee for checked bags.
+1001

Reducing carry-ons would also mitigate gate lice issues. The reason half those people are jamming in there is so they can get to the bins in time (the other half are just clueless and apparently think the flight will otherwise leave without them).
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Old Jul 30, 13, 7:06 pm
  #3060  
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Originally Posted by 5khours View Post
.... Reduce fee for checked bags.
Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
... Reducing carry-ons would also mitigate gate lice issues. ....
versus reducing ancillary revenues to the carriers
wonder which way that will go??

Come up with billions of dollars new revenue source and the carriers might listen, otherwise no reason to discuss this.
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