United Airlines Gets Better Boarding


What’s your favourite part of air travel? The in flight movies? The complementary miniatures? Whatever you’d pick as your highlight of your flight, we’re pretty sure we know what it isn’t, and that’s the boarding process. Well, there’s a chance United Airlines have just come up with something that could change the way we board forever.

As the air travel industry becomes more competitive, airlines are forced to drive down their fares in a bid to secure their share of the travellers. As margins get squeezed, it’s ever more important that they monetise everything they can, from the baggage we bring to the ability to select our seats.

One such form of monetisation has been priority boarding. If you travel economy, chances are there’s been more than a couple of times when you’ve waiting at the gate, lamenting your lack of status, as you watch other passengers streaming onto the aircraft. First class, business class, frequent fliers, platinum card holders, families with kids… By the time you get on board there’s barely any overhead bin space left, and the chances of a window seat are slim to none.

Well, United think they’ve found the answer. Here’s what they’ve got planned:

Better boarding from United Airlines


Dubbed ‘Better Boarding’ United Airlines boarding process involves reducing the number of queues at the boarding gate from five lanes to just two. But how can reducing the number of lanes speed up the boarding process, we hear you cry! Here’s how it works:

  • Passengers are allocated a group: United haven’t released full details on this, but essentially the groups are ranked one to five dependant on factors like whether they are business class, Premier customers, travelling with kids or whatever.
  • Priority groups queue first: Using lanes one and two, colour coded blue and green, groups one and two (we assume will probably be MileagePlus Premier Gold and 1K customers, as well as those in business class) will queue up and board first. Group one gets the blue lane, group two follow on in the green lane.
  • Other groups will be called in sequence: Groups three to five are likely to be all economy passengers and will be called in sequence to board through the green lane (lane two).
  • Late priority passengers use the blue lane: Priority passengers, i.e. groups one and two, who turn up late can whizz onto the plane in the blue lane, bypassing the queues in the green lane.

The new United Airlines boarding initiative comes hand in hand with better signage around the airport. Groups will be able to see who is boarding now, who will be boarding next and can stay seated for longer, according to the carrier.


As well as this, United are launching an app to keep customers updated on when boarding will commence. They’ve said they will be rolling out a text messaging service in the future too.

Better boarding is in place for the majority of United Airlines flights from Tuesday 18th September onwards.

Will the new United Airlines boarding process save time?

According to United Airlines boarding in this way will allow passengers more time to relax and less time spend queueing at the gate. Will it get people through the gate faster? No.


Essentially this is a means of getting their priority customers through faster, as well as getting more groups into that all important blue line, so they don’t have to wait around in the bustle of economy. It’s segregation at its best but isn’t really going to save anyone any time.

United gate signage
Latecomers in groups 1 and 2 will be able to speed past the lowly economy class queuing in the green lane

Potentially, for us minions in groups 3, 4 and 5, we may spend less time on our feet. If the app and promised text messaging works as planned, maybe we’ll even get ten minutes more in duty free. However, in our experience, when you over complicate a process as simple as getting on an aircraft in this way, it only leads to additional delays.

What if group five decide to stand up and queue when group three do anyway… now they’re crammed into one line instead of five. If someone’s still down at the perfume counter when they get the message their group is boarding, will they be at the gate in good time? Wasn’t it just simpler when the whole group of passengers were at the gate, ready to board, the moment the gate was open?

Perhaps this is a cynical viewpoint, but we’ll be interested to see how it works in practice. Let us know how you get on next time you experience the new United Airlines boarding process.