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United Airlines Boarding Groups — Everything You Need To Know

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Jeff Brownson
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Jeff Brownson

Former Content Contributor

24 Published Articles

Countries Visited: 40U.S. States Visited:

Jeff got into the points and miles game in 2010 and since then has visited over 35 countries, flying mostly in first and business class. He’s a contributor to Traveling Dad and has spoken at the Chica...
Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
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Keri Stooksbury

Editor-in-Chief

36 Published Articles 3291 Edited Articles

Countries Visited: 47U.S. States Visited: 28

With years of experience in corporate marketing and as the executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar, Keri is now editor-in-chief at UP, overseeing daily content operations and r...
& Kellie Jez
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Kellie Jez

Director of Operations & Compliance

6 Published Articles 1179 Edited Articles

Countries Visited: 10U.S. States Visited: 20

Kellie’s professional experience has led her to a deep passion for compliance, data reporting, and process improvement. Kellie’s learned the ins and outs of the points and miles world and leads UP’s c...

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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.

United Boarding Groups

United uses 7 groups for boarding: Pre-Boarding and numbered Groups 1 to 6. 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.

United Boarding Group Process
United’s boarding procedure involves 2 lanes to expedite boarding. Image Credit: United

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.

Pre-Boarding

  • Unaccompanied minors
  • Customers with disabilities
  • Uniformed members of the U.S. military
  • Families traveling with children aged 2 and younger
  • United Global Services members
  • Premier 1K members

Group 1

Group 2

Groups 3

  • Economy Plus or economy passengers in window seats or exit row seats

Group 4

  • Economy Plus or economy passengers in middle seats

Group 5

  • Economy Plus or economy passengers in aisle seats

Group 6

  • Basic Economy passengers* and passengers without a boarding group number

*Basic Economy passengers with elite status, a Chase United credit card, or Star Alliance status board according to their regular group.

Priority Boarding

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 boarding 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.

The quickest way to build up your United MileagePlus balance is with credit cards — either using huge sign-up bonuses or through your daily spending.

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 Chase transfer partners like 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)

GREAT STARTER CARD
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
U.P. Rating 
The rating for this card has been determined by our own industry experts who know the in's and out's of credit card products. Bonuses, rewards as well as rates and fees are all taken into account. Compensation from the issuer does not affect our rating. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse.

A fantastic travel card with a great welcome offer, good benefits, and perks for a moderate annual fee.

Learn More(at Chase's secure site)
A fantastic travel card with a great welcome offer, good benefits, and perks for a moderate annual fee.
Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.
60,000 points
$1,200
$95
21.49%-28.49% Variable
Upgraded Points credit ranges are a variation of FICO®Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit cardapplication.
Good to Excellent (670-850)

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® card is one of the best travel rewards cards on the market. Its bonus categories include travel, dining, online grocery purchases, and streaming services, which gives you the opportunity to earn lots of bonus points on these purchases.

Additionally, it offers flexible point redemption options, no foreign transaction fees, and excellent travel insurance coverage including primary car rental insurance. With benefits like these, it’s easy to see why this card is an excellent choice for any traveler.

Pros
  • 5x points on all travel booked via the Chase Travel portal
  • 5x points on select Peloton purchases over $150 (through March 31, 2025)
  • 5x points on Lyft purchases (through March 31, 2025)
Cons
  • $95 annual fee
  • No elite benefits like airport lounge access or hotel elite status
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.
  • Enjoy benefits such as 5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases, $50 Annual Chase Travel Hotel Credit, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Travel℠. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get complimentary access to DashPass which unlocks $0 delivery fees and lower service fees for a minimum of one year when you activate by December 31, 2024.
  • Member FDIC
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  • APR: 21.49%-28.49% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None
Rewards Center

Chase Ultimate Rewards

Chase Sapphire Reserve®
U.P. Rating 
The rating for this card has been determined by our own industry experts who know the in's and out's of credit card products. Bonuses, rewards as well as rates and fees are all taken into account. Compensation from the issuer does not affect our rating. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse.

A top player in the high-end premium travel credit card space that earns 3x points on travel and dining while offering top luxury perks.

Learn More(at Chase's secure site)
A top player in the high-end premium travel credit card space that earns 3x points on travel and dining while offering top luxury perks.
Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Travel℠
60,000 points
$1,200
$550
22.49%-29.49% Variable
Upgraded Points credit ranges are a variation of FICO®Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit cardapplication.
Excellent (740-850)

If you’re looking for an all-around excellent travel rewards card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is one of the best options out there.

The card combines elite travel benefits and perks like airport lounge access, with excellent point earning and redemption options.  Plus it offers top-notch travel insurance protections to keep you covered whether you’re at home or on the road.

Don’t forget the $300 annual travel credit which really helps to reduce the annual fee!

Pros
  • 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase TravelSM immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually
  • 10x points on Lyft purchases March 31, 2025
  • 10x points on Peloton equipment and accessory purchases over $250 through March 31, 2025
Cons
  • $550 annual fee
  • Does not offer any sort of hotel elite status
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Travel℠ 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
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Travel℠. For example, 60,000 points are worth $900 toward travel.
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Member FDIC
Financial Snapshot
  • APR: 22.49%-29.49% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None
Rewards Center

Chase Ultimate Rewards

Business owner? See our list of the best Chase business credit cards.

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.

Final Thoughts

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 MileagePlus® Awards Card and United℠ Presidential Plus℠ Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.

The information regarding the United Club℠ Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the United Club℠ Business Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many boarding groups are there on United?

United has 7 boarding groups: 6 numbered boarding groups and a group of passengers who are eligible to pre-board.

How does United determine its boarding groups?

Pre-boarding is available to qualified passengers. Groups 1 and 2 are made up of passengers with elite status in MileagePlus and partner programs, as well as those passengers seated in premium cabins. Group 2 also includes United co-branded credit card members and passengers who have purchased Priority Boarding.

Group 3 includes passengers in window seats. Group 4 includes passengers in middle seats. Group 5 includes passengers in aisle seats, and Group 6 includes Basic Economy passengers and anyone who didn’t get a boarding group number.

Are United Airlines flights assigned seating?

Yes, United Airlines flights are assigned seating. You can choose your seat when you book your flight or at any time up until check-in.

Who is Group 1 on United?

Group 1 on United includes Premier Platinum members, Premier Gold members, Star Alliance Gold members, and Premium cabin passengers seated in United Polaris first class, United Polaris business class, United First, or United Business.

Who is Group 2 on United?

Group 2 on United includes Premier Silver members, Star Alliance Silver members, customers who have purchased Premier Access or Priority Boarding, as well as cardholders of specific United credit cards.

Who is Group 3 on United?

Group 3 on United includes passengers seated in a window seat in Economy Plus or United Economy.

Who is Group 4 on United?

Group 4 on United includes passengers seated in a middle seat in Economy Plus or United Economy.

Who is Group 5 on United?

Group 5 on United includes passengers seated in an aisle seat in Economy Plus or United Economy.

Who can preboard on United?

Unaccompanied minors, customers with disabilities, uniformed members of the U.S. military, families traveling with children age 2 and younger, and United Global Services and Premier 1K members can preboard on United.

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About Jeff Brownson

Since discovering miles and points in 2010, Jeff has traveled to over 35 countries, flying in first class, business class, and sometimes even in coach. Whether he’s staying in a hostel dorm, or in a luxury suite at a 5 star hotel, Jeff is constantly looking for the best deal to make travel as close to free as possible.

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