Chicago-based United Airlines is testing a new method for boarding flights that may take away some headache for travelers.Currently, the airline uses a system that separates passengers into five lines in the boarding area. And while that system helps acutely separate passengers, control the crowd and cut back on lurkers hanging around the boarding kiosk, it can also be complicated for some travelers. Five full lines of standing passengers also often creates a lot of congestion (albeit organized congestion) near the boarding zone – especially when multiple flights are boarding in adjacent gates.
The new boarding procedure that United is testing cuts the boarding lanes down to two: one for priority and another for standard and basic economy passengers. Upgrade notifications are also apparently being taken down from the screens in the boarding area, as the airline expects passengers to already be aware of their seat assignments based on mobile notifications. According to CNBC, the trial is based on feedback from both gate agents and passengers.
United is trialing the changes at Chicago O’Hare and Houston George Bush Airports – two of its biggest hubs – as well as Los Angeles International. If the tests go well, the new procedure will expand to further airports.Moving from five to two boarding lanes may seem odd to long-term United passengers who remember a time not too long ago when the airline moved from two to five boarding lanes. At that time, the move was made to help better segment travelers (and thus speed boarding) across the spectrum of fares from first class down to deeply discounted economy. Now, United appears to be focusing on simplifying the process and cutting down on congestion near the gate area.
Indeed, both American Airlines and Delta, United’s chief rivals, have used two boarding lanes for the least several years. In adopting their standards, United may be conceding on the tight segmentation that helps speed boarding – but ultimately producing less of a headache for ground crew and passengers.