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While trying to shield my eyes from some of the thus-far horrible National Championship Game, I saw a post by Daniel (Friendly Skies) on Upgrd.com that talked about a rumored new boarding process from United. That post gives a good historical overview of what the previous boarding processes were for United and Continental, as well what has happened since the merger. Fast forward to now where we have 7 boarding groups and boarding takes forever. So, I think that some tweaks to the boarding process are probably a good thing, but I am not at all impressed by what they settled on.
Over the next several months, we’re going to be making several changes to address crowding and consistency and, frankly, to help you just understand where you should stand as you wait to board. Over time, we’ll also make physical changes to our gate areas, deploy better directional signage, and enact changes to the boarding process itself.
Bear with us as these changes roll out over a period of months. Here is a brief overview of what you will see:
- Simplified Boarding Groups (January 8-9, with full implementation January 10): Starting late tomorrow, we plan to reduce the number of boarding groups from 7 to 5 (plus pre-boarding). The new boarding group priority will be:
- Pre-Boarding: Customers with disabilities, then Global Services and uniformed military personnel
- Group 1: Global Services, Premier 1K, Premier Platinum, premium cabins
- Group 2: Premier Gold, Star Gold, Premier Silver, Star Silver, MileagePlus Presidential Plus and Club cardholders, MileagePlus Explorer and Awards cardholders
- Groups 3-5: General boarding
Worth noting:If you are traveling on January 9 or 10, and checked in to your flight before we made the change, you can refresh your online boarding pass to see your new boarding group. You can also go to a kiosk to reprint your boarding pass.
- Revised Gate Layout with Premium Bypass Lanes (March/April): We will add more boarding lanes – in many cases, one for each boarding group. At nearly every gate, our Premier Access boarding will be comprised of two separate lanes – enabling a dedicated line for groups 1 and 2 respectively. Some of you have already seen this concept, as we are testing this new layout at several gates (in many cases with temporary signage). Below are some of the gates where we are testing this layout:
- Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) – B8, C16 and C18 (adding two more at a later date)
- Cleveland (CLE) – C27 and C3
- Denver (DEN) – B23 and B32
- Houston (IAH) – C40 and E2
- Los Angeles (LAX) – 70B and 73
- New York/Newark (EWR) – C123 and C131
- San Francisco (SFO) – 73 and 80
- Washington-Dulles (IAD) – C19 and D7
Okay, so a change is probably needed. I’m a big fan of perks from rewards credit cards, but having someone who has a $95 a year MileagePlus Explorer card be able to board at the same time as a United Gold flyer who flies at least 50,000 miles a year is……strange. Early boarding really matters for families especially since they nixed families from early boarding in 2012, but given this I sure am glad that I earned Platinum status for 2012 (or at least will when some pesky miles finally post retroactively).
I think at hubs like Houston there is just going to be a huge number of folks waiting at the starting line like folks at the annual Turkey Trot for Group 2 to be called. I’m interested in the idea of having a boarding line for each group – on the surface it sounds like Southwest having places for everyone to line up in order of their boarding pass. I fly United on Wednesday and am interested to see how this plays out.
What do you think?