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Window seat passengers to board first

United Airlines just announced a new policy designed to limit the congestion when people board. Those with window seats will be allowed to board first, even in economy. Should be interesting to see if other airlines follow suit. It will also be interesting to see if those who always choose aisle seats will change their preferences.

Gifted article from Washington Post: https://wapo.st/3S7s06J

Posted by
7031 posts

Does anyone remember People Express Airlines (the one from the 1980's)? I flew in them quite a few times before they went defunct, and they had 2 boarding doors: one for the front and one for the back. Everyone would board at the same time. It really was a good idea and definitely eased the congestion.

When I was travelling on business many moons ago, in the mighty USA, Southwest had that boarding procedure back then.

Not any more. Southwest now assigns customers to groups A, B and C, and they board accordingly. People who need assistance board first, and I have to wonder how many of them actually need it. On my last SW flight, there were 22 people in wheelchairs waiting to board from Midway to Cincinnati.

Posted by
4310 posts

Does this mean people travelling together will now be split up if one has window and the other has the middle seat? That should go over well with families.

Posted by
2258 posts

Mardee--I think there will always be people who skirt the system, such as lining up to board early when they don't need to, but I also think many times we can't see what the disability is. I know after my first knee surgery, I was parked in a handicapped spot in a parking lot and a man yelled at me for nit being disabled. I was a couple weeks out from surgery, using a cane, but was young, early 40's, so he was making assumptions. I am dreading that now even as I got a new knee a week ago, and am mid 50's. So just waiting for someone to judge me without knowing. Maybe I will beat them with my cane or walker;) I will most likely be one of those people to board early when I visit my mom in December.

Posted by
5690 posts

I thought United had already tried that in the past (maybe it was a different airline). I don’t think this will necessarily help (e.g., the person in the window seat in row 20 blocks the aisle while people in back row window seats wait to get by). To me, it seems like the people sitting in the back should get to board earlier.

I agree this will cause a problem with families.

I usually fly United and it seems like half the people who get on the plane are in boarding group 1 or 2 since so many people either have status or United credit cards.

edit: I see from the article United first implemented this in 2017 so it isn’t really new.

Posted by
2267 posts

Does this mean people travelling together will now be split up if one has window and the other has the middle seat? That should go over well with families.

No, they thought of that. All paxs on the same reservation are supposed to board with the first applicable group in the booking. So middle seat people would board with their window seat partner. Or aisle people would board with their middle seat partner. A family with all three seats in a row would board in the window group.

Posted by
14293 posts

"To me, it seems like the people sitting in the back should get to board earlier."

Long ago and far away this is how they used to board on Delta. It was before you had people bringing carry on and having to fight for overhead bin space. This would have been before 2001 maybe even 70's or 80's.

Posted by
5067 posts

All paxs on the same reservation are supposed to board with the first applicable group in the booking. So middle seat people would board with their window seat partner. Or aisle people would board with their middle seat partner. A family with all three seats in a row would board in the window group.

Sound like a monumental snafu waiting to happen. Wish I had whatever they were smoking / drinking. Guess I'll wait to see how it shakes out before booking.

Posted by
2635 posts

This will be...interesting. I prefer United and also fly economy and like my aisle seat so I can stay as happily hydrated as I need to be, but I also like to be able to stow my carry-on tote bag in the overhead. Choosing a seat towards the back of the plane has usually allowed that without issue, so I can't wait to hear how this plays out. What the airlines need to do is start being stricter about the amount and size of luggage people are bringing aboard, that's what always seems to cause issues.

Posted by
7473 posts

”It turns out that the only reason to get on first is amongst the "carry-on only" fantasits who panic about overhead bin space! So if you aren't one of those weirdos, just wait and get on last.”

Nick, yes, you’ve nailed it! I really don’t care when I board, but I want my backpack in the overhead bin above me, so that drives the “weirdo” behavior. : ). When I’m traveling a domestic flight with just a tiny bag at my feet, I turn into a normal person (a rare breed at an airport) who board at their leisure.

Posted by
4605 posts

Also keep in mind that "official" policy can go out the window if the gate agents don't play along. On a recent Lufthansa flight from Munich first they boarded business, naturally, and then we expected them to board premium economy and then economy by groups or rows. Nope, they just said everyone board and it was quite a free for all. Especially since they now use those turnstiles where you have to scan your boarding pass and there was only one open and every 3rd pass or so had an issue.

Posted by
7031 posts

Mardee--I think there will always be people who skirt the system, such as lining up to board early when they don't need to, but I also think many times we can't see what the disability is.

mikliz97, I totally agree with that. My sister has had bad knees for years and finally got a placard for her car, but people sometimes glare at her when she parks in a disabled spot. And my very fit-looking SIL once had major surgery on his Achilles tendon and had to use a wheelchair at the airport. But 22 wheelchairs on a relatively small flight? I know some are legit but I am also pretty certain that many of them were in those chairs because Southwest does not assign seats and it's first come first served. And those in wheelchairs are first. It makes a mockery of those who do need the chairs to get on.

Posted by
7031 posts

It turns out that the only reason to get on first is amongst the "carry-on only" fantasits who panic about overhead bin space!

That's another reason for me to check a bag.

Posted by
2258 posts

Mardee--Yes, 22 wheelchairs would make me mentally question it as well. Today was my first outing, to physical therapy, and we went and picked up sandwiches afterward. My husband parked in a handicapped spot and for a moment I thought that was crazy. I am only a week out of surgery, so yes I was the crazy one;) I figure if those people that are skirting the system think they need it then let them. They have bigger problems than I do, and I do believe karma catches up;) Like others, I just want my seat, and a bit of bin space above and my foot space. I have actually had people ask me before to see my foot space as well as theirs and some have just taken it. Yes, their stuff was removed by me and not a word was said. It never ceased to amaze me at how entitled some people act.

Posted by
1199 posts

The window first group applies only to economy, not "even to economy." All sorts of folks board before this "new" WILMA plan, and some of those will be in the economy cabin and it won't matter if they have a window seat or not (status & credit card holders, for example.)

Don't mean to shill for this guy, but he does breakdown the boarding groups of this plan...

https://thepointsguy.com/news/united-airlines-new-boarding-process-window-middle-aisle/

Posted by
11535 posts

Officials wrote in the memo that the process would save the airline up to two minutes of boarding time.

Two minutes ---wow...... oh, wait it's "up" to two minutes --double wow

UAL tried it in 2017 and abandoned it...... draw your own conclusion

Posted by
4641 posts

I recall that airlines in early covid boarded this way, then gave it up.

Posted by
327 posts

My choice is an aisle seat so I don't have to disturb others for restroom use. But when United did this type of boarding previously, it meant that there never was any overhead space left by the time I (aisle seat) was allowed to board. (I find United never calls out people boarding with oversize or multiple bags.) I stopped flying United for Europe travel. Unless United starts enforcing carryon limits, they will get the same complaints that apparently caused them to abandon this process in the past. Like others have said this will mainly only affect those of us that fly without upgrades.

Posted by
5067 posts

What the airlines need to do is start being stricter about the amount and size of luggage people are bringing aboard, that's what always seems to cause issues.

Yes! Yes! Yes! We've seen "carry on" bags taken aboard that wouldn't fit into a sizing box if one used a gallon of WD-40. We've seen a number of people take an oversized bag, a huge purse almost the size of a small suitcase, and a plastic shoping bag aboard -- and nothing was said by any airline personnel.

At one time Lufthansa had a lady in Atlanta that would walk around the gate area and pick up bags. Saw her send several to be checked because they were too heavy and / or large.

Posted by
7079 posts

I hope this works and they keep it. I usually fly United and I always choose a window seat if possible.

Posted by
724 posts

We’re excited to bring WILMA back to provide a smoother boarding process flow that helps get passengers in their seats even faster and saves precious time during our boarding process,”

This isn't exactly new, it's actually the only boarding system I've known flying United. What is new is taking basic economy and moving them from boarding group 5 into their own boarding group 6. At least it's generating the marketing buzz and all the media outlets are reporting on it.

Posted by
2 posts

So basically those of us who prefer aisle seats will use up those “saved” two minutes wandering up and down the aisle trying to find an overhead bin that isn’t full for our carry-ons. There’s no way there’ll be any room left by the time aisle seats board.

Posted by
2925 posts

Wonder how United will handle those of us who pay for aisle seat AND priority boarding (group 2). Looking forward to hearing about your experiences.

Posted by
18871 posts

There’s no way there’ll be any room left by the time aisle seats
board.

I always fly Basic Economy or "El Cheapo" or what ever the particular airline calls it. That means I am in always in boarding group 86. Which also means carryon only. In all these years of toursm, I have never not found a place in the overhead at or on the way to my seat. I doubt this will change things much.

And I would almost guarantee couples get to board together at the earlier boarding group, they generally let them do it now.

Posted by
350 posts

Initially I thought this type of boarding would cause issues for families where folks may be seated together in a row (window, middle, aisle). Well, on second thought, it's not necessarily a problem. The person holding a window seat doesn't have to board with their group; they can board later with the middle seats or aisle seats. I don't really see this as a problem.

Posted by
724 posts

Wonder how United will handle those of us who pay for aisle seat AND priority boarding (group 2). Looking forward to hearing about your experiences.

Nevermind whether one buys economy + or preferred seats, you don't pay for aisle seats on United, and if you've paid for priority boarding or Premier Access well you get priority boarding or Premier Access and boarding group 2. That's been the case.

Initially I thought this type of boarding would cause issues for families where folks may be seated together in a row (window, middle, aisle). Well, on second thought, it's not necessarily a problem. The person holding a window seat doesn't have to board with their group; they can board later with the middle seats or aisle seats. I don't really see this as a problem.

For those concerned with families boarding, United has stated that multiple customers on the same economy reservation, like families or partners traveling together, will be assigned the same and highest boarding group number and board together, except basic economy.

A few more reasonable articles

https://thepointsguy.com/news/united-airlines-new-boarding-process-window-middle-aisle/

https://www.fastcompany.com/90969137/uniteds-big-plan-to-change-airplane-boarding-is-actually-just-its-old-plan

And I bet this link updates to the new boarding groups come 26 October https://www.united.com/en/us/fly/travel/airport/boarding-process.html

What boggles my mind is the level of fantastical headlines trumpeting this revolutionary new boarding system in the mainstream media along with the amount of hand wringing and angst leveled at it.

Posted by
5067 posts

It appears there were some inaccuracies in the original article, as clicking on the link now will indicate corrections were made today. Didn't compare the articles so not sure if they were large or small.

Posted by
14580 posts

Maybe that explains why I am always placed in Group 4 and among the last passengers to board. I fly almost always United , always Basic Economy and never choose a window seat when going over.

Posted by
18871 posts

Fred, the same, that's why I am always behind you in line. And I always find a place for my carryon cause us Basic Economy don't afford the big fancy carryon luggage so there is always room above the cheap seats.

Posted by
14580 posts

@ Mister E.....Based on the recent experience of this summer's trip SFO - FRA, the most unpleasant , and I mean, irritating, aspect of being in Basic Economy, Group 4 is that by the time the group is called to board, you can basically bet that any overhead bin space has been taken over, occupied by those already seated, leaving no adequate space for my single carry-on . My aisle seat is towards the rear, say 2/3 to 3/4 to the back. Bins on either side of my seat are hogged by these people.

No problem flying Basic Economy, United, to FRA or being in Group 4. If it's not your lucky day, no overhead bin space left for you.

Posted by
18871 posts

So far in dozens of flights basic economy I have always found room. But I put it in the very first opening see no matter where it is.