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Can United’s New Procedure Fix the Boarding Crunch?

United Airlines is testing a new boarding procedure that it hopes will provide a better customer experience, with less crowding and more efficient boarding. According to the company’s website:

We’re dedicated to providing convenience and comfort throughout your journey with United and are always looking for ways to improve your overall experience. Our customers have told us they want a better experience when boarding, so we’re working to improve the process by testing a new boarding method at various airports across our network.

So what is the new boarding process?

As always, passengers will be assigned to five different groups, depending on their seat location, ticket type, frequent-flyer status, and so on. But instead of the current five boarding lanes, the new scheme uses only two lanes.

Group 1 and Group 2 passengers will board first, through Lane 1 and Lane 2. When they’re onboard, the remaining groups will be boarded, in order, through Lane 2. Lane 1 will be left open, to accommodate late arrivals from Groups 1 and 2.

The trick here is keeping passengers seated until their group numbers are called, thereby reducing the congestion that inevitably chokes off the entrance to the jetway. If United can successfully encourage or enforce that behavior, the result should be a calmer, less stressful boarding experience. Problem: solved.

On the other hand, it seems to be human nature to want to be first in line, and it’s easy to imagine members of Groups 3 through 5 ignoring gate agents’ requests to remain seated and loitering at the entrance to Lane 2, long before they’ve been called to board. Problem: unsolved.

Reader Reality Check

Does this seem like a tenable solution, or not?

More from SmarterTravel:

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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