In an effort to reduce boarding time, United Airlines is changing the boarding process beginning later this month, reverting to a previous approach it hopes will reduce boarding time by two minutes.
United Airlines Revises Boarding Process, Returns To WILMA
Internal metrics have revealed that, on average, it takes a United flight two minutes longer to board than in 2019. That may not seem like much, but can add up throughout the day and theoretically should be the opposite considering United has expanded its basic economy fare class that does not include a carry-on bag.
To improve boarding times and increase its Net Promoter Score (NPS…details here), United will return to “WILMA” boarding as of October 26, 2023. I don’t quite understand the acronym, but WILMA means “window, middle, aisle” and is a boarding process United has used in the past. United will also add a Group 6 boarding for basic economy (currently basic economy is Group 5).
Multiple customers on the same economy class reservation will receive the same and highest applicable boarding group (excluding basic economy customers in boarding Group 6, which comes into play if a United MileagePlus elite books a basic economy ticket).
Pre-boarding and groups 1-3 will not change. The change will start with Group 4. Thus, United’s new boarding process will follow these steps:
- Customers with disabilities and unaccompanied minors
- Active-duty military
- Global Services members
- Families traveling with children two and under
- Premier 1K members
- Group 1
- United Polaris Business
- United First
- United Business
- Premier Platinum
- Premier Gold
- Star Alliance Gold
- Group 2
- Premier Silver
- Star Alliance Silver
- Chase-United co-branded cardholders
- those who paid for Premier Access
- Group 3
- Window seats
- Exit row seats
- Non-rev travelers
- Group 4
- Middle seats
- Group 5
- Aisle seats
- Group 6
- Basic economy (no larger carry-on bag permitted – only a small personal item)
Longhaul flights as well as select flights in Central America will not have a Group 6 since United allows carry-on bags when booking an intercontinental basic economy ticket.
United tested “WILMA” at one hub and four line stations this year and found overall boarding time was reduced.
United Airlines is attempting to speed up boarding times and improve customer satisfaction by boarding window seat passengers, followed by middle seat passengers, and finally aisle passengers. It is not clear if this will meaningfully reduce boarding times, but that is the goal and the new process goes into effect later this month.
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