If you like the airline caste system, then you'll probably like United's new boarding system, and at least lowly card members get to board a little earlier.
United Airlines is reducing the number of its boarding groups from seven to five, and that means there are winners and losers, depending on passengers’ MileAgePlus status.
The changes, which begin today and get fully implemented January 10, aren’t widely known, but Shannon Kelly, United’s director of ecommerce planning and delivery, detailed them last night on FlyerTalk.
The previous pecking order of seven boarding groups (at right) has been whittled down to five, and there eventually will be physical changes at the gates, too, including more and status-segregated boarding lanes, Kelly states.
Preboarding essentially stays the same under the new system, and the following are United’s new five boarding groups:
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.
The changes basically mean that Premier Platinum members move from Group 2 under the old system to Group 1 in the revamped process.
And Premier Gold and Star Gold members who previously only had the company of Premier Platinum members in Group 2, now have to board in Group 2 along with Premier Silver, Star Silver, MileagePlus Club and Presidential Plus card members (previously in Group 3), as well as MileagePlus Explorer and Awards cardholders (previously Group 4).
Some FlyerTalk members are already grumbling that Premier Gold and Star Gold members now have to rub elbows with mere cardholders because of the changes.
In March and April, United plans to implement premier bypass lanes, which will include a dedicated lane for Groups 1 and 2, Kelly states.
The new configurations currently are being tested at:
- Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) – B8, C16 and C18,
- 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, and
- Washington-Dulles (IAD) – C19 and D7