Through at least the end of May, United Airlines is avoiding zone boarding and will instead board by rows.
United Airlines has used zone boarding for years. After the merger with Continental, it briefly tried boarding by rows (as Continental did) but in less than a week reverted back to boarding by zone.
United Airlines Boarding Groups
Up until this week, United boarded flights in the following order:
- Unaccompanied minors
- Customers with disabilities
- Uniformed members of the U.S. military
- Families traveling with children age 2 and younger
- United Global Services members
- Premier 1K members
- Premier Platinum members
- Premier Gold members
- Star Alliance Gold members
- Premium cabin passengers
- United Polaris
- United First / Business
- Premier Silver members
- Star Alliance Silver members
- Customers who have purchased Premier Access
- United Club, Explorer Card, and Presidential Plus cardholders
- Economy Plus passengers
- United Economy passengers
- Generally, window seats get Group 3 and middle + aisle seats Group 4, though travelers on a single itinerary board together in the highest applicable boarding group
- Basic Economy passengers (no carry-on bags permitted)
New Boarding Experience On United
In an effort to promote social distancing and avoid unnecessary clogging of aisles, United has adapted a new boarding procedure.
Pre-boarding will still include the same groups (military members, customers with disabilities, families with small children, Global Services, and 1K members).
But after pre-boarding, gate agents will board the plane from back to front, calling five rows at a time.
With reduced loads onboard, the hope is that this will speed up boarding in addition to avoiding slow-downs in the jetway or onboard.
With loads so low, I don’t think back-to-front boarding is nearly as burdensome as on full flights. That said, I don’t expect this method of boarding to last once travelers start returning to the skies.
If you are flying this week on United, leave a comment below if the new boarding process is faster.