New United Boarding Process Announced

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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 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.

Here is the announcement as written by UA Insider on Flyertalk:

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?

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  1. Saw the testing at D7 (IAD) for a flight to HNL. Despite the many announcements and well placed signage the passengers just all crowded the same one line. It will likely take some time for people to adjust (just like it did with WN).

  2. This is not a good comparison to Delta whose Golds fare better in boarding (staying with the diamond and platinums).

    What’s worse is it’s one less reason for me to make UA my preference and will end up keeping me in a Delta seat, despite the issues with Skymiles redemptions.

    I don’t see it making a huge difference on the family trips as the extra time isn’t needed and we check most of the bags so the overhead space isn’t needed either.

  3. If there is a real improvement UA can do regarding the boarding area, please, please, please, put more seats around each gate in your hubs.
    The amount of seats in many UA hubs are quite stingy in compare with the number and size of the airport at the gate.

  4. Just more and more devaluation with a significant increase of gate lice. What was sooo terrible about the PMUA boarding process???

  5. All the more reason to quit trying for United status, start flying AA, and just get a United credit card . . . unless you can make Global Services level or the ‘over entitled’ 1K status . . .

  6. Sweet Christmas,are they nuts?! So the crecit card isequivalent to Gold status, huh? Ummm how about reducing general boarding, instead?

  7. They have devalued Gold status one more time. Group 2 will have the majority of fliers and will become a nightmare getting through boarding. Since I never check a bag, seems no reason to achieve Gold in 2013. Maybe time to split status with another airline.

  8. I’d like to see them taken to task for putting *G in group 2. *A rules clearly state that *G gets priority boarding at the same time as First & Business class cabin, so group 1. Airlines are free to take away rights from their own members (a la UA/US lounge access), but they shouldn’t be able to impacts alliance standardized rules. If not, I hope some other airlines return the favor and disallow priority boarding for UA *G members and see what UA thinks of that.

    Someone with media creds should get in touch with *A and ask. Sadly I’ve been out of that industry for a while.

  9. I wasn’t sure how United could screw up the merger wose but they did.

    @Scottrick -not really. You board with Plats. The only incentive to better boarding is spend big bucks on full fare to get GS. Anything less is not valued and it shows.

  10. What I really wonder is how in the world they will create 5 (or even 3) separate lines in already crowded boarding areas? The problem with everyone flooding the PremierAccess lane right now is because there isn’t much differentiation from the cattle class lane and I have yet to see a single gate agent take a stand in front of the mob. Seems like [yet another] logistical nightmare in the works, on top of ticking off their top flyers. But then again, they have been doing it consistently since the merger.

  11. Upgrade for me as a 25K flyer. Credit card people won’t be in e+. Giving me a slightly better shot at valuable overhead space.

  12. As platinum it would seem that I am the only elite group that really benefits. Card holders ought to be in group 3, either with windowers or add another group and add silver to that. And this will be mayhem on international flights. Group 1 will be 100+ people on a 744, group 2 will probably be 70+. I quite liked the current system, it was just like the old united system, but elite tiers had a number assigned, not just a callout.
    But who am I to complain?

  13. @ Kris Ziel

    Ryan is right, UA is clearly witholding Star Gold benefits. Past practice is no excuse.

    Star Golds board with First and Business, which would be group 1. I didn’t make the benefits list, but I can read them.

  14. All I’m saying is that I’ve never been on a flight where Star Gold is in the same group as First/Business. Not once, and I’ve been on about 150 Star Alliance flights in the past few years.

  15. Ironic that I just got my Premier Gold 2013 “welcome” packet in the mail. Can you start a twitter complaint blitzkrieg for us?

  16. Am I the only person who could really care less when I get on the plane and ideally, would like to be the last person through – 2 seconds before the doors close and we take off?

  17. @ebeth
    When I am flying in first class, I don’t mind being pretty late, being that overhead space up front is rarely an issue, but when I am in economy plus, I like to be in group 1 or 2 so there is no chance that the overhead bins are full. The way I see it, the biggest benefit of priority boarding is overhead space, and I don’t see the new groups changing that for the priority groups. With that said, CC holders shouldn’t be grouped together with *G and Premier Gold.
    3: window
    4: middle
    5: aisle

  18. The more I read this the more I realize how crazy it is. I’m only a lowly Star Alliance Silver on another carrier, but the revised boarding revised boarding process is hilarious to me.

    As @Ryan said above, lumping Premier Gold and Star Alliance golds in a group that boards after premium cabins conflicts with the published priority boarding benefit of Star Alliance Gold, and also denies United’s own Premier Gold members the priority that they should be afforded as Star Alliance Gold members.

    According to the benefits of Star Alliance Gold as published by the Star Alliance, Star Alliance Gold Members can board with First and Business Class passengers: “With priority boarding you can enjoy the freedom of boarding at your convenience along with First and Business Class passengers.” (from

    As Star Alliance Gold members, United’s Premier 1K, Platinum, and Gold members are *all* entitled to board with the first and/or business cabin in Group 1, which would leave Premier Silver, Star Alliance Silver, MileagePlus Club Card, Presidential Plus Card, MileagePlus Explorer Card, and MileagePlus Awards Card members in group 2. (I’m not sure MileagePlus Award Cards members should be entitled to Premier Access boarding, but hey — this isn’t any sort of a published Star Alliance benefit… so, whatever.)

    Anyhow, hopefully United will realize that they shouldn’t be lumping in Golds with Silvers, not to mention holders of any UA branded credit card. If UA doesn’t realize this on their own, I suspect the Star Alliance would be happy to inform United that Star Alliance Golds (including UA’s own Premier Golds) should be entitled to board along with any premium cabins.

    (cross-posted to UA Hub)

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