I can’t tell you the number of times I have flown United (even in business) and found myself having to push through throngs of people huddled around the gate to find the Premier Access line. Often times priority boarding or my boarding group will have already boarded by the time I even find the line. So it was welcome news this week when I heard that United finally got rid of the 5+ group boarding process, which encouraged people to line up well before it was time to board the aircraft.
Well as of this week United has implemented a new system where boarding is just separated into 2 lanes. This completely eliminates the issue of there being people blocking the priority lane because of the deluge of customers getting in line all at once. Groups 3-5 will stay seated until all premium cabin passengers, elites, and customers with disabilities have boarded the aircraft. So the new order is as follows:
- Pre-Boarding: Premier 1K/Global Services Members, Active Military, Customers with disabilities, and families with children ages 2 and younger.
- Group 1: First + Business Class Passengers, Gold/Platinum Members
- Group 2: United Silver Members, United Credit Card Holders, Premier Access Customers
Following Passengers are to remain seated until the above boarding process has been completed:
- Groups 3/4
- Group 5: Basic Economy Customers
I was very skeptical of this boarding process until I saw it in action recently at Houston Intercontinental Airport. I arrived at the gate around 10 minutes before boarding started and found it surprisingly vacant with absolutely no one standing in line waiting to board. I suppose this is understandable given that I don’t believe overhead space is an issue with elite customers or passengers with priority boarding.
Anyway, I was in Group 3 and was on board my flight no more than 10 minutes after boarding started. That’s an absolute record for me when flying economy on United. In fact this whole boarding charade really made me shy away from flying United given the utter chaos at the gate.
Now United claims that they had to test this out 12,000 times before finalizing the process. What an utter waste of money considering they could’ve just come up with a system based on what they saw on MythBusters 🙂 I mean seriously, it takes 12,000 runs to say that passengers in Groups 3-5 should remain seated while Groups 1 and 2 board? There is definitely something wrong here if they had to do that much research.
If you watch the video or read about the results here, you will note that Southwest technically has the fastest boarding process of all the major airlines. However Southwest’s success may not be just the boarding process itself, but also passengers not having to worry about bin space because of the 2 checked bags. This is also not mentioning the fact that they don’t have to worry too much about bag size at the gate.