United Airlines Has Updated Their Boarding Process – Here’s How It Works

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For everyone out there that hates the boarding process, United Airlines has heard your cries and recently unveiled a brand new boarding process!  These new changes are aimed at reducing the time spent standing around at the gate and providing more detailed boarding information to travelers.

In addition, these changes also provide some subtle benefits for certain United MileagePlus elite status tiers.

Gone Are the 5 Boarding Lanes, Now United Airlines Has Simplified It Down to Just 2 Lanes

United Airlines Unveils New Boarding Process

United Airlines promises that the new boarding process will mean less time in line, better information, balanced boarding groups, and better recognition.

Less Time In Line

United’s primary goal of these changes was to reduce the time you spend waiting in line.  They are doing this by simplifying the boarding area to two color-coded lines.  The reduced number of lines should reduce the amount of time you spend standing around because your group won’t have a line to stand in until it is called.

Better Information

Along with the new two-line boarding area, United Airlines has launched new information screens throughout the waiting area that update live as new groups board.

Enhanced Communications Will Make It Easier to Wait For Your Flight Without Needing to Be Within Earshot of the Gate Agent

These screens will tell you which groups have already been called and which groups are coming up next.  In addition to these boarding screens, travelers can get notifications using the United Airlines mobile app or SMS messages which tell them when their group is ready to approach the lines to board.

Balanced Boarding Groups

While United has reduced its boarding groups down to 5, they also took this opportunity to balance the boarding groups for more even boarding.

Here is the new boarding order:


  • Unaccompanied minors
  • Customers with disabilities
  • Active members of the military
  • United Global Services® members
  • Families traveling with children age 2 and younger
  • Premier® 1K® members

Group 1

  • Premier Platinum members
  • Premier Gold members
  • Star Alliance™ Gold members
  • Customers seated in premium cabins, like First Class and Business Class

Group 2

  • Premier Silver members
  • Star Alliance Silver members
  • Customers who have purchased Premier Access® or Priority Boarding
  • Certain United Airlines cardholders, like folks with the United℠ Explorer Card

Groups 3 to 5

  • Economy Plus® (Group 3)
  • United Economy® (Group 4)
  • Basic Economy (Group 5)

Better Recognition

One of the more subtle changes in this announcement is that because of the rebalanced boarding groups, some elite status fliers actually get an upgrade in their boarding order.

Some MileagePlus Members Might Be Enjoying a Nice Upgrade in Their Next Boarding Group Assignment

MileagePlus Premier 1K members now get to join the pre-boarding group of travelers which was previously only reserved for United Global Services members.  This is a nice upgrade for travelers who have attained this status.

MileagePlus Premier Gold fliers also get an upgrade to Group 1 where they board alongside First Class, Business Class, and Premier Platinum members.  This now puts them in a different boarding group than Premier Silver fliers and those enjoying the priority boarding benefit of the United℠ Explorer Card.

What Do I Think of These Changes?

I don’t think these changes are as ground-breaking as the United Airlines’ marketing department has made them out to be.  Many other airlines like Delta, Alaska Airlines, and Southwest have been using a two-line boarding process for a while.  These airlines still struggle with folks congregating around the lines.

I am most excited to see that they will be sending out live notifications to travelers via the mobile app when their boarding group has been called.  Alaska Airlines does this already and I really enjoy the fact that I can be engrossed in a book on my Kindle with my noise canceling headphones on and get notified when I am ready to board instead of having to listen for the announcement.

These new changes have already taken effect at the gate, so you will see these updates the next time you fly.  If anyone has flown on United Airlines since the new changes took effect, please share your experience with us in the comments.

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Alex Curtis is a contributor to Million Mile Secrets, he covers topics on points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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