New Boarding Process

Discussion in 'United Airlines | MileagePlus' started by Infinite1K, May 4, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. Infinite1K
    • Original Member

    Infinite1K Silver Member

    Rumor has it on the other board that United is implementing CO's boarding process and doing away with zones and instead using the row numbers (from the back to forward). Elite/Premium cabin still go first, as do members of the military and passengers that need more time (including those traveling with kids).

    Ironically I see that in the American forum, they are changing their boarding process to mirror what United has been doing until now.
  2. MSPeconomist
    • Original Member

    MSPeconomist Gold Member

    Will this be a change in the boarding order or just announcing it by row number rather than zone?

    There was the same issue during the DL/NW merger. NW used row numbers and DL zones, but the concept of who boarded before whom was the same. Now we use zones.

    I don't like having the announcements call zones because this reminds me of Southwest.
  3. Infinite1K
    • Original Member

    Infinite1K Silver Member

    In United parlance, it is actually Boarding Area and not Boarding Zone.
  4. Misplaced Texan
    • Original Member

    Misplaced Texan Gold Member

    Zones aren't just a proxy for row number though. On UA now zone 2=windows, zone 3=middles, zone 4=aisle. It's a different boarding process based on the analysis that it's faster to have people squeezing past each other in the aisles than it is to have folks in the aisle or middle getting up and down as the interior rows potentially wander in later.

    Somewhere online there's a great set of simulations showing various potential boarding models. Apparently the outside-in model was faster than the back-to-front model though neither was optimal.

    ETA: Here's the website with the boarding simulations.
    East_Yorker and sdcarver like this.
  5. MSPeconomist
    • Original Member

    MSPeconomist Gold Member

    When they do the outside in process, which certainly makes logical sense for faster boarding, do they separate all families and travel companions or make exceptions like crazy? If people travelling together can board together, that would seem to give them an enormous advantage over single travellers in obtaining space in overhead bins.
  6. Misplaced Texan
    • Original Member

    Misplaced Texan Gold Member

    The typical drill is that people traveling together can use the lowest zone #. So if you have two seats in a row then you're both boarding with the window person. Wouldn't matter all that much if folks were actually using the overhead over their row only (since then you're really only fighting for space with others in your party), but I can see the point when people are throwing their bags in the first few sections and then walking to the back.

    Of course, elites board first without regard for front-to-back. GS/1K board with first and 1P/2P/*G board as Zone 1 (or maybe 1P boards before Zone 1, it's been a while since I was one). So it's really a kettle-on-kettle fight for overheads when you get to talking about the later three zones.
  7. MSPeconomist
    • Original Member

    MSPeconomist Gold Member

    Maybe this helps to even out the demand for window versus aisle seats? More like aisles, but if window has the board first for the bin space advantage, more might try to pick the window seats. However, i realize that after all the seats set aside for elites, there probably are mostly middles left for kettles anyway.
  8. Misplaced Texan
    • Original Member

    Misplaced Texan Gold Member

    I doubt many people boarding after zone 1 are savvy enough to really understand the boarding process or its implications for overhead space. I think the sole purpose of outside-in is/was that it was demonstrably faster than front-to-back (assuming that this guy's simulations are correct, at least).
    sdcarver likes this.
  9. sdcarver
    • Original Member

    sdcarver Silver Member

    Thank you Misplaced Texan for the informative posts on boarding.

  10. Jslo
    • Original Member

    Jslo Gold Member

    The new boarding order is:

    1. silent Pre Board for those needing alot of extra time
    2. Uniformed military personnel
    3. BusinessFirst/First Class and Super Elite(Platinum Plus, GS, Platinum and 1K)
    4. Elite
    5. Families with kids under 4 and extra time
    6. Main Cabin: rear to front by row numbers/5 at a time

    Should the flight be extra Elite heavy, boarding will be done by status.

    That's the word on the street from a UA gate agent (not me...I don't work for UA- but I copied the info from them.)
    OnTehWings likes this.
  11. EWR764
    • Original Member

    EWR764 Silver Member

    I've caught a lot of grief from UA agents (especially at DEN, for some reason) about boarding with my non-elite travel companion(s) during elite boarding.

    One particular experience jumps out at me...on a DEN-IAD 777 flight in January, I had cleared my u/g to J, traveling as a CO Plat with my girlfriend. I had no way to add her as my companion at the airport, since it was booked on separate PNRs as a mixed CO/UA itin, so I gave her my seat in J and scored 17H on the old config for myself. Amidst the mad boarding rush (what was that about UA's 'orderly' boarding process? Seems just like any other to me) we both tried to get on when United Business was called. The agent rudely told my girlfriend to "wait until her seating area is called" and told me, "You can either wait with her and board with the 4th group or let her wait by herself, she's a big girl." I addressed the agent by her first name, informed her we had changed seats, that I thought she had been extremely rude, and that we were causing passengers behind us a greater inconvenience by arguing over this nonsensical matter.

    She let us board, but told me "not to put her in that situation again." I replied that I hoped to never see her again. :rolleyes:
    hulagrrl210 likes this.
  12. hulagrrl210
    • Original Member

    hulagrrl210 Gold Member

    that is such B.S.! Good for you for calling her out!
    Sean Colahan likes this.
  13. goalie
    • Original Member

    goalie Gold Member

    Bolding mine: Um, maybe the g/a should read that non-elites are allowed to board with elite members they are traveling with. :rolleyes: is right. :mad:
  14. DenverBrian
    • Original Member

    DenverBrian Silver Member

    Any boarding simulation is useless unless it also takes into account:
    • The preboarding of children and people needing assistance, and the window/middle seats blocked because of that
    • The initial boarding of elites, and the window/middle seats blocked because of that
    • The preboarding of military, and ditto
    • The configuration of carryon bins and the loading of carryons (sometimes haphazardly) by pax
    The boarding simulation link is interesting but it presupposes an entirely empty coach cabin and then applying a simplified version of various boarding schemes.

    Possibly for these reasons, UA is going to try a new config.
  15. mht_flyer
    • Original Member

    mht_flyer Gold Member

    Boarding the United way vs. the Continental way, I guess I just don't care. I've flown both this year many times and they both seem fine, then again, as elites were not that often impacted with the "after elite" boarding.
    Horse likes this.
  16. scott6067
    • Original Member

    scott6067 Silver Member

    I can confirm the new boarding areas and if I recall correctly the carpet will stay open like at CO during the whole boarding process.
  17. gobluetwo
    • Original Member

    gobluetwo Silver Member

    If this is, in fact, the actual boarding order, it's not too bad at all. I'm fine with those needing a lot of extra time (eg, those in wheelchairs) preboarding. My biggest concern was whether it would be a mass elite free-for-all, or if the elite ranks would be subdivided in any way. It is a tad annoying that 1P/2P/Gold/Silver all board at once, but it's not all elites at once and at least there is carpet lane access in CO-land for all elites. In fact, if I could change two things, I would (1) make group 4 board via the regular line so that group 3 could still go through the carpet lane. Then, when they start in with groups 5 and up, open up the carpet lane to all elites. And (2) split out 1P/Gold/*G and 2P/Silver/*S.
  18. tommy777
    • Original Member

    tommy777 Co-founder

    Well, we all know which airline tops the ontime departure statistic over and over again and which is way down the order.

    The key with boarding areas is to get the masses who don't travel frequently to understand the process very easily. A big fat number on your boarding pass is a lot easier than finding and keeping track of your row number.

    For elites, you will now get 75Kers boarding with you, quite discriminating to 1Ps who can be all the way up to 99K EQM.

    I would have hoped that the CO people now in charge would keep what UA is really good at. The boarding process is a lot smoother than COs
    sunseeker likes this.
  19. GFowler
    • Original Member

    GFowler Silver Member

    This appears to be another compromise caused by the merger where existing procedures take president over being friendly to the the middle level elites (e.g. 1Ps). As a 1K the method mentioned here would have very little effect on me but I like the UA method.
    sdcarver likes this.
  20. avflyer
    • Original Member

    avflyer Silver Member

    UH...I know this is heresy, but somewhere I read that the fastest, most efficient, boarding method is open seating. I quote the Fermilab Center for Particle Astrophysics : (major eggheads)
    "The overall boarding times that are obtained with the free-for-all model are roughly the
    same as the best boarding strategies with assigned seats such as boarding window seats
    first, then middle seats, and then aisle seats. Although a direct quantitative comparison
    between these models is not warranted without proper calibration, the assumptions that are
    employed here give results that are in good qualitative agreement with those in Ref. 4 and in
    industry practice. Thus, the model described here can be used to qualitatively compare the
    benefi ts of diff erent boarding procedures including free-for-all boarding and methods that
    employ assigned seats."

    Here is the link to the entire report (good luck)
  21. Misplaced Texan
    • Original Member

    Misplaced Texan Gold Member

    Let's be careful about "useless". I agree that the simulation doesn't fully account for reality, but as someone who works with complex models in real life, you can learn a lot from a model that doesn't account for every single variable/complexity and still be better off being guided by the results than you would be with no information or with only "common sense" as a guide.

    Poking holes in what a model fails to account for is cute, but it doesn't invalidate the results entirely unless you can offer a competing analysis which accounts for those issues and results in a contrary finding.
  22. Misplaced Texan
    • Original Member

    Misplaced Texan Gold Member

    Interestingly, one could argue that this is what WN does. They do boarding groups to allow their elites (and early check-ins) to get better seats, but it's all open seating as people get on the plane.

    It's also interesting that a lot of Asian airlines basically eschew any kind of systematic boarding and yet can still get a plane boarded and out faster than the typical domestic carrier with it's zones or rows can manage.
  23. sunseeker
    • Original Member

    sunseeker Silver Member

    If all elites are allowed to use the carpet, even if called to board by groups, won't that mean that for F and super elites, there will be a gauntlet of other elites to get throgh at boarding -- elite lice waiting their turn on the carpet? I don't need overhead space, but I like the red carpet for the ease of walking on the plane with little waiting at the carpet or on the jet bridge. In fact my favorite red carpet experience is when my upgrade has not cleared on a 757, most of the carpet folks turn left, and I walk through an almost empty plane to take my seat and stow my things with no jostling or hassle. If I have to excuse myself through a bunch of waiting elites, that will change the experience for me, making it more like a 1P trying to get to the front of the general boarding area. I am traveling 4 legs on UA Tuesday and Wednesday, so I guess I will have the experience first hand.
  24. milepig
    • Original Member

    milepig Silver Member

    The carpet area always stayed open - they close the little barricade, but anyone who qualifies has always been welcome to go there, and the GA will normally open it and let you go ahead of anyone in the regular line.

    I don't care about whether they call by rows or areas, but to me calling "zone 1 is ready for boarding" seems a lot simpler than keeping track of rows.
    Freddie Listo, JLSocks and sunseeker like this.
  25. BurBunny
    • Original Member

    BurBunny Silver Member

    One of the issues with boarding zones is that most Kettles either didn't know what they were, or didn't pay any attention to them. A passenger with a high row number (let's say 28) who has no airline affiliation would expect to board first based on their experience with other airlines. We know most people don't listen to (or can't understand the overhead speaker) announcements, so the zone 4 folks jostle their way to the front of the line, only to be turned back not comprehending their error. As a 1P I frequently see their confused expressions as I jostle my way to my position to board. Doesn't matter how large the zone is printed on their pass, they don't know what it means, while they usually do know their row or are familiar with that concept.

    While I personally prefer the zone method, even knowing I'll have to get up once or twice during the process to allow the window/middle passengers to access their seat, I understand why United is reverting back to rows. Does it affect me? Not in the least. But I do think it'll slow the turns a bit and we'll have more of the urgent "please take your seats as quickly as possible" announcements to try to keep on time departures.

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