A day before a flight from LAX to Honolulu, I received an e-mail from United letting me know that the airline would be testing out a new boarding process for my flight. And a few hours later, they sent a follow-up text.
As a travel blogger, even though I am generally hesitant of change, I was excited to be part of this test. There have been studies in the past that boarding planes starting with window seats, then middle, then aisle creates a quicker, more efficient boarding process, so I had always wondered my more airlines hadn’t implemented this system.
Notably, at least in the test I took part in, for priority passengers (i.e., anyone in first/business, anyone with Premier status, and anyone with a United MileagePlus credit card) the boarding process was the same as it was before.
There were still lanes and signs for boarding zones 1 and 2, and passengers in these groups lined up as usual (although the e-mail explicitly stated that the new boarding process would eliminate the need to stand around, seasoned travelers – particularly on United – are hard-pressed to give up this first-come-first-on-board habit). There were no signs for zones 3 and above, though, and having seen a previous flight board that was also part of this test, it appears that United is considering eliminating these lanes.
I didn’t get to experience what it was like boarding in a later group, which was great for my psyche, though not ideal for this blog post. But I will say that, having taken roughly a dozen United flights between California and Hawaii, the boarding process went much smoother than usual. In fact, we were able to take off around 10 minutes early.
That said, I can’t say if the enhanced boarding experience was caused by the test boarding process or if it was a combination of a great crew and experienced travelers (there are a lot of United employees on this flight who were on standby, leading me to think this may have helped with the boarding process as well).
Overall, I am happy that United is testing out this boarding process, given the studies supporting it and had a pleasant experience myself.