United Airlines Is Making a Big Boarding Change

Those in window seats will board first, followed by middle, then aisle
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 18, 2023 2:00 AM CDT
Updated Oct 22, 2023 7:45 AM CDT
United Airlines Is Making a Big Boarding Change
A United Airlines plane is pushed from the gate at George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Aug. 11, 2023, in Houston.   (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

In what some might see as an obvious move, United Airlines is making what media outlets are painting as a big change to its boarding process: Passengers with window seats will board first. Well, they'll still board after everyone who is allowed to pre-board, plus all the fancy passengers (business class, first class, certain credit card holders, et cetera). But they'll board before those with middle or aisle seats (as will those in exit rows), the New York Times reports. The process is for some reason referred to as WILMA for "window, middle, aisle," because after the window seat holders, it's the middle seat sitters who board next, followed by those in the aisle seats. The final group allowed to board the plane will be those in basic economy, a fare type that does not include a carry-on bag, or anyone without a boarding group listed on their boarding pass, Travel + Leisure reports.

The Times says United tested the WILMA method at five airports in 2017, but other outlets are reporting that the airline once used the method more widely and then stopped using it in 2017, when the basic economy fare was introduced, because its computer systems at the time only allowed for five boarding groups (there are now six, thanks to updated systems). Confusingly, the Washington Post is reporting that WILMA was launched in 2017 because of the introduction of the basic economy fare, but was later paused and is now resuming. Whatever the case may be, the airline most recently boarded its planes in the "standard front-to-back approach" most airlines use, Conde Nast reports. It says using the WILMA process, which starts October 26, will reduce boarding time by up to two minutes. Some online commenters were predicting aisle seat holders won't be happy if all the overhead bin space is taken by the time they board. (More United Airlines stories.)

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