Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
& Kellie Jez
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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 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.
*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 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.
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 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.
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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.
United has 6 boarding groups: 5 numbered boarding groups and a group of passengers who are eligible to pre-board.
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 all Basic Economy passengers.
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.
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.
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.
Group 3 on United includes passengers seated in a window seat in Economy Plus or United Economy.
Group 4 on United includes passengers seated in a middle seat in Economy Plus or United Economy.
Group 5 on United includes passengers seated in an aisle seat in Economy Plus or United Economy.
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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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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