United Airlines Ruffles Feathers With New Boarding Sequence

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by Tyler Durden
Sunday, Oct 29, 2023 - 04:15 PM

United Airlines has announced a new boarding sequence for its flights, stirring praise from some but dismay from others who fear they'll be forced to gate-check bags for lack of remaining overhead bin space. 

With an eye on minimizing boarding time and thus maximizing the use of their fleets, airlines have perpetually wrestled with the question of which boarding sequence is fastest. Now, in a bid to shave upwards of two minutes off the typical boarding duration, United Airlines has announced it's embracing a system the industry calls "Wilma," an abbreviation of sorts for a sequence that proceeds from window to middle seats, with aisle seats going last. 

United's new process will be used on all domestic and some international flights. People traveling on the same reservation -- such as families, friends and couples -- will still be allowed to board together. 

According to the Wall Street Journal, the aisle-seat-last rule will only apply to economy-class passengers. Those in window and exit seats will be in Group 3, middle-seaters in Group 4 and aisle-seaters in Group 5. There will be a new Group 6 for "Basic Economy" if there weren't enough groups already:   

Wilma isn't a new concept. United says it used it to load coach passengers up until 2017, when it created Basic Economy class but at the time faced a software limitation on the number of boarding groups, prompting the carrier to drop Wilma -- until now. 

The new process kicked in on Thursday. Many prospective travelers on social media are keen on the concept, but others are expressing anger and anxiety. Those who prefer aisle seats fear they'll be left without bin space for their carry-ons -- and thus punished simply because of their seat preference. Some foresee it causing tension among passengers and crew. Others are pledging to choose another carrier.