United Airlines is gearing up to revamp its boarding process starting on Oct. 26. It made the announcement in an internal memo to its staff this week that was shared with news outlets, including TPG.
The new boarding process is called WILMA, or Window, Middle, Aisle. It will keep most boarding, pre-boarding through Group Three, the same, but things will change after that depending on where exactly on the plane a passenger is ticketed to sit. Here’s the new order:
- Pre-boarding will include those with disabilities, unaccompanied minors, service members, United 1K members, and those with children 2 or younger.
- Group 1 will include Star Alliance Gold and Premier Platinum members along with those in Polaris, First, or Business class.
- Group 2 will include United Premier Silver and Star Alliance Silver, along with those with Premier Access or priority board and cobranded credit card holders.
- Group 3 will include those in exit row seats and window seats (the W in WILMA), along with nonrevenue travelers.
- Group 4 will include those in middle seats (the M in WILMA).
- Group 5 will include those in aisle seats (the A in WILMA).
- Group 6 will include those with basic economy tickets.
If several travelers are flying together, they all will be able to board at the same time in the highest boarding group out of all their tickets.
The goal of the changes is to save time boarding, a process that has gotten longer for all carriers over the past five years. The new process makes logical sense—it would theoretically avoid having to ask a person in an aisle seat to get up in order to get into a middle seat or an aisle seat—but it all depends on how United communicates the changes, and how flyers abide by the new rules.
According to that memo, United tested WILMA out a few times at some domestic airports, and the process saved up to two minutes of boarding time, which can add up over a day, especially at some of its hubs where it is operating a heavy schedule.
The move is yet another major change United has made to its passenger experience this year. Just a few weeks ago, it launched an online tool that makes it easier for wheelchair users to book travel and fly. It also recently committed to add braille in all cabins by 2026.