Finally, a United policy wins out!
During my travels in the United States last month I witnessed the birth of United’s “new” boarding policy, which could only be described as chaotic and inefficient. Mimicking Continental, UA began boarding military first, then all elites and first class passengers, followed by rows from back to front.
There were two problems with the policy: first and foremost, it simply took more time to board. Even when families with different zone numbers would board together, the zone boarding process still whisked people onboard about efficiently as possible considering UA does not enforce carry-on baggage restrictions.
Secondly, boarding from back to front must have ticked off passengers who paid to upgrade to Economy Plus, then found overhead space was gone by the time they stepped on the plane at the end of the boarding process. That’s not a smart way to increase ancillary revenue…
Surprisingly (to me at least), United seems to have learned from its mistake and as Damian reports, is bringing back zone boarding. In a posting on Flyertalk, Scott O’Leary, Managing Director of Customer Solutions had this to say:
Hi Everyone, Thank you for all of your feedback regarding our recent changes to the boarding process. Let there be no question – we are listening to you and our co-workers, and will continue to make changes to our business as a direct result. The new boarding process we recently rolled out will be one of those examples.
Here’s what we’re doing, starting next week…
We’re reinstating zone boarding on the United side. Beginning Jun. 8, United will return to boarding by zones. Among other things, this should directly improve the experience for the folks who purchase Economy Plus by ensuring they aren’t in the last boarding group. In addition, we’ve found a way for our combined airline to support zone boarding, and expect to introduce zone boarding to Continental in the coming year.
We’re simplifying the announcements. Also on Jun. 8, we’ll be adjusting our announcements to be simpler, shorter, and create better separation throughout the Elite boarding process. While all premier customers will continue to use the carpeted lane, we intend to manage this better through these new announcements. Uniformed Military and Global Services members will be invited to board as part of the preliminary announcement. Then we will board First Class along with 1K and Platinum members, followed by Business Class (on three-cabin aircraft), followed by Premier Executive and Gold members, followed by Premier and Silver members.
Also in the coming months, we’ll be in the field testing some concepts aimed at further reducing congestion on the carpet during Elite boarding. We’re committed to making this process work, and we hear you loud and clear.
Thanks as always for your feedback.
Scott O’Leary Managing Director, Customer Solutions United Airlines
It is always nice to see when United responds to customer and employee prompting, but more than anything, I think United quickly found that back to front boarding simply did not work. I also think Continental will find, when they also adopt the zone boarding system, that they will be able to get out flights much more easily and efficiently than they do now.
My thoughts on allowing military to board first aside, I appreciate that United will again be boarding first class passengers and top-tier elites before mid and low-tier elites. There are simply too many elites to board at once, especially at hub airports. I regret that that all elites will retain access to the red carpeted lane, but I can live with the new policy.
It is nice to see a United policy win out over a Continental one. Although this is just a small victory, I was beginning to think that the only part of United that would remain after the merger was the name. Let’s hope we will see more alignment in a United direction.