United Airlines Boarding Groups — Everything You Need to Know

United At Gate

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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 their 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.

United Airlines has made several changes to their boarding process recently, and for the average flyer it has been a bit tough to follow. Luckily we’re here to help.

Below we’ll go through all the details of United’s boarding process. You can learn how many boarding groups they have, which passengers belong in which groups, and how to make getting from the gate onto the plane as easy and stress-free as possible.

Current United Boarding Groups

As of right now, this is the boarding procedure for United flights. If they make changes, we’ll do our best to keep this updated with current information, so check back later to keep tabs on any new practices.

United uses 6 groups for boarding: Pre-Boarding and numbered Groups 1-5. Each passenger is assigned to one of these groups for boarding, and there are lines for each group set up at the gate.

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 age 2 and younger
  • United Global Services® members

Group 1

  • Premier 1K® members
  • Premier® Platinum members
  • Premium cabin passengers

Group 2

  • Premier Gold members
  • Star Alliance Gold members
  • Premier Silver members
  • Star Alliance Silver members
  • Customers who have purchased Premier Access
  • United MileagePlus Explorer, Club, Presidential Plus, and Awards Credit Card members

Group 3

  • Passengers seated in a window seat
    • Economy Plus® passengers
    • United Economy® passengers

Group 4

  • Passengers seated in a middle seat
    • Economy Plus® passengers
    • United Economy® passengers

Group 5

  • Passengers seated in an aisle seat
    • Economy Plus® passengers
    • United Economy® passengers
  • Basic Economy passengers

For some smaller flights, there will not be Groups 4 or 5. If this is the case, Basic Economy passengers will board with the last group.

New Boarding Process Testing

United New Boarding Testing
United is testing a new boarding procedure at certain airports. The process involves only 2 lanes instead of the 5 they currently use.

United is currently testing a slightly altered boarding process at some airports throughout their network.

The boarding groups are still the same, as are the passengers in each group. The only change is in the way that passengers line up to board the aircraft.

Instead of having a separate line for each of the numbered groups, the process being tested will only have 2 lines. Group 1 and Group 2 will line up to board. Once they are onboard, Groups 3-5 will be called to board through lane 2.

The goal of the change is to create less crowding in the boarding area and a more efficient boarding process. United is asking Groups 3-5 to remain seated until their group is called to board.

It will be surprising if passengers actually remain seated and don’t crowd lane 2, but if they can make this work, it will make boarding a United flight much more pleasant.

Priority Boarding

United Airlines has recently started selling Priority Boarding for some flights.

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 they get 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 onboard if you don’t purchase the service.

Priority Boarding will start at $9, but pricing will be variable based on the flight booked, date, time of day, and day of the week. In other words, they can charge whatever they want for the service. Hopefully pricing will remain rather low.

How to Build Up Your United 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 MileagePlus® 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.

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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 procedure that they use on almost all their flights all over the world. Knowing where you fit into that process can simplify your travel experience.

Even if you understand the current boarding process, however, the new boarding process in testing and the Priority Boarding available for purchase may change the boarding process for your specific flight or situation.

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.

Featured Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com.

FAQ

How many boarding groups are there on United?

United has 5 numbered boarding groups plus a group of passengers who are eligible to pre-board, for a total of 6 boarding groups.

How does United determine their 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 all Basic Economy passengers.

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 1K® members, Premier® Platinum 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 Gold members, Star Alliance Gold members, Premier Silver members, Star Alliance Silver members, customers who have purchased Premier Access, as well as United MileagePlus Explorer, Club, Presidential Plus and Awards Credit Card members.

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 pre-board 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® members can pre-board on United.

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1 comment

  1. So basically they are “inventing” the American Airlines boarding process where everyone just crowds the gate 🙂

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