Update: Due to COVID-19, United requires all passengers and crew to wear a mask throughout their flight. Masks will be provided at no cost if customers need them.
Nothing can start your trip off on the wrong foot quite like a confusing and frustrating boarding process before you even get on the plane. Airlines, however, don’t seem to recognize this issue. Either that, or it’s not a major priority!
Every airline has its own boarding process. They are all different, they sometimes make little sense, and if you don’t travel regularly, you may have trouble understanding what’s going on when it’s time to board your flight.
Let’s go through all the details of United’s boarding process. You can learn how many boarding groups it has, which passengers belong in which groups, and how to make getting from the gate onto the plane as easy and stress-free as possible.
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United Boarding Groups
United uses 6 groups for boarding: Pre-Boarding and numbered Groups 1 to 5. Each passenger is assigned to one of these groups for boarding, and there are 2 lanes for boarding set up at the gate.
Group 1 and Group 2 line up to board first — Group 1 at the blue lane and Group 2 at the green lane. Once they are on board, Groups 3 to 5 are called to board through the green lane.
If you qualify for certain pre-boarding or membership categories, you can board ahead of your assigned group. In all cases, you can board with the first group you qualify for.
- Unaccompanied minors
- Customers with disabilities
- Uniformed members of the U.S. military
- Families traveling with children age 2 and younger
- United Global Services members
- Premier 1K members
- Premier Platinum members
- Premier Gold members
- Premier Silver members with United co-brand credit card
- Star Alliance Gold members
- Premium cabin passengers
- Premier Silver members without United co-brand credit card
- Star Alliance Silver members without
- Customers who have purchased Premier Access or Priority Boarding
- Last to board in this group are Chase United credit cardmembers who have a United℠ Explorer Card, United Club℠ Card, United Club℠ Business Card, United Club℠ Infinite Card, United MileagePlus® Awards Card, United℠ Presidential Plus℠ Card, or United Quest℠ Card
Groups 3 to 5
- Economy Plus passengers
- United Economy passengers
- Basic Economy passengers*
*Basic Economy passengers with elite status, a Chase United credit card, or Star Alliance status board according to their regular group.
Priority Boarding is marketed to those passengers who do not have any other elite status or card membership, and it would allow them to board ahead of their assigned group. Passengers who purchase Priority Boarding will be able to board with Group 2.
United says that this is a good opportunity for passengers to make sure there will be a place for their carry-on bag since space often runs out by the time it gets to Group 4 and 5. Critics say that this is a way for United to effectively charge for carry-on bags.
As it is a fairly new option, it remains to be seen how popular Priority Boarding will be and whether it will, in fact, make it more difficult to get your carry-on bag on board if you don’t purchase the service.
Priority Boarding starts at $15, but pricing varies based on the flight booked, date, time of day, and day of the week. In other words, United can charge whatever it wants for the service. Hopefully, pricing will remain rather low.
Hot Tip: For an overview of other add-ons and fees, check out our in-depth review of United Airlines.
How To Build Up Your United MileagePlus Miles Balance
If you’re like us at Upgraded Points, you prefer to use miles and points to pay for your flights instead of cash. If you want to fly with United, you will want to earn some MileagePlus miles.
To get United miles, you can either earn them directly with one of the co-branded United cards from Chase (for example, the United Explorer card), or you can earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points and transfer them 1:1 to United MileagePlus. The latter is certainly our preferred method, as Chase points are easy to earn and you can transfer them to many different partners, not just United.
Recommended Chase Cards (Personal)
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card - This is our favorite beginners travel rewards card, which is currently offering a 60,000 point bonus after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
The card earns 5x points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3x points on dining and 2x points on all other travel purchases, plus more. Enjoy a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, and other travel benefits such as excellent travel insurance coverage, including car rental insurance and no foreign transaction fees, this card is a very rewarding card.
|Chase Sapphire Reserve® - This premium card will get you access to 1,300+ airport lounges. as well as a number of other card benefits. The current sign up bonus is 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. You'll also get a $300 travel credit per year which wipes away a big chunk of the $550 annual fee. As an extra bonus, until 12/31/21, gas station & grocery store purchases will also count towards earning your Travel Credit.
Earn big with this card, earn 5X total points on air travel and 10X total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3X points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
|Chase Freedom Unlimited® - A solid, no-annual-fee card that earns you a $200 bonus after you spend $500 in your first 3 months. Earn 5% cash-back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year, and 5% on travel purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Plus, earn 3% cash-back at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services, and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% cash-back on all other purchases.|
Recommended Chase Cards (Business)
|Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card - this is our #1 recommended business card and right now comes with a 100,000 sign up bonus after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening. This bonus is worth $1,000 cash back or $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Pay your cell phone bill with this card to receive up to $600 in cell phone insurance coverage per year; as well as a number of other benefits.
Earn 3x on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year, plus 1x on all other purchases — with no limit to the amount you can earn. All for an annual fee of $95.
|Ink Business Cash® Credit Card - Earn $750 bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
This no annual fee business card earns up to 5% cash-back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year, plus 2% cash-back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary.
|Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card - Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back rewards on every purchase made for your business.
Earn $750 bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. There's no annual fee.
Remember that these cards are all issued by Chase, so they fall under the 5/24 rule. You need to pay attention to that when you are planning to apply.
No matter how complex a boarding process is, it’s usually fairly easy to follow if you know what to expect before you get to the gate.
United Airlines has a detailed 2-lane procedure that it uses on almost all of its flights all over the world. Knowing where you fit into that process can simplify your travel experience.
To best prepare for your flight, be sure to familiarize yourself with all of the possible procedures we’ve gone over here. That way, no matter what happens, you will be ready to go and be on the plane with ease.
The information regarding the United Club℠ Card, United Club℠ Business Card, United MileagePlus® Awards Card, United℠ Presidential Plus℠ Card, and Chase Freedom Unlimited® card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.