If you have clients flying United Airlines who like to board early, book them a window seat.
Beginning on Oct. 26, the airline will implement a new boarding procedure for passengers flying in economy class by boarding those in window seats first.
The move is intended to speed up the boarding process, which the airline said has increased by an average of two minutes since 2019. Recent testing of the airline’s new “WILMA” boarding plan showed it saved those two minutes back.
United Expects Time Savings
“It saves time in two ways,” aviation expert Marisa Garcia wrote in a recent article for Forbes. “Since everyone is seated in separate rows, they are not asking other passengers to move seats. When storing hand luggage, they do not interfere with each other.”
Under the airline’s new “WILMA” boarding plan for Group 4 passengers, people in middle seats will board second, and those in aisle seats will board last.
The airline will continue to allow families to board together, regardless of seat assignments.
The change will not affect boarding for first-class or business-class passengers, and United’s pre-boarding procedure also will be unaffected. The airline will create a new boarding group, 6, for Basic Economy passengers who are not permitted to bring a carry-on bag onboard and travelers who don’t have a seat assignment on their boarding pass.
United had previously attempted a WILMA-type boarding process but ended it in 2017 due to complications arising from the boarding group structure being used at the time. Airline officials expect that improved technical capacity will make the current iteration of the boarding plan work more smoothly.
Most major airlines board passengers based on travel class, priority status, and/or general location of their seats on the plane. Southwest Airlines is the major exception: while the airline does offer priority boarding as an option, travelers are generally boarded in three groups (A, B, C), and all available seats are first-come, first-served, with no seat assignments offered in advance. Like United, Southwest says the scheme helps save boarding time.
Delays in boarding not only cost airlines money and aggravate travelers but also can contribute to flight delays, experts note.