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United Airlines to debut new boarding order

Passengers check in for United Airlines flights at O’Hare International Airport on December 13, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois.

Scott Olson | Getty Images

United Airlines will change its boarding order next week by letting economy-class passengers who have selected window seats to board before those with middle and aisle seats.

The company said the change could shave two minutes off of boarding.

The new procedure will begin Oct. 26, according to a company memo shared with CNBC. United said boarding times have increased by up to two minutes since 2019.

Airlines regularly tinker with boarding procedures to save precious time getting passengers onto planes, generally rewarding their biggest spenders with some of the earliest boarding. A departure delay because of chaotic boarding could cascade to further disruptions throughout the day if aircraft and travelers arrive late, especially at congested airports.

United’s boarding process from preboarding – which includes travelers with disabilities, active-duty members of the military, travelers with children under 2 years old, and United’s top-tier elite frequent flyers – through Group 3 will remain the same, according to the memo.

Beginning with Group 4, passengers with window seats will board first, followed by those with middle seats and then aisle seats. People on the same reservation, like families, can board together, United said.

The new boarding process will be implemented on all domestic flights and some international flights.

Why airplane boarding is inefficient — and likely to remain so

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