United Airlines plans to speed up its boarding process by allowing economy class passengers who have purchased window seats to board planes ahead of those with middle and aisle seats.
The change, which will take effect Oct. 26, could cut up to two minutes from boarding time on each flight, according to an internal memo shared with The New York Times. This will affect domestic and some international flights.
Airlines, reeling from a decline in travel during the coronavirus pandemic, are routinely making changes to boarding procedures to try to save time and boost profits.
Under United’s new seating plan, known as WILMA, an acronym for Window-Middle-Aisle, people in economy class with window seats will board first, followed by people in the middle seats, and then People with aisle seats. Families traveling on the same flight will board together.
The boarding process for first class and business class passengers will not change, and preboarding groups will still include people with disabilities, unaccompanied minors, active-duty military and families traveling with children ages 2 and under.
United has tested the WILMA method, which it first tried at five airports in 2017, and found it effective in reducing boarding times, according to an internal memo.
According to John Milne, to make boarding more efficient, airlines need to cut down on the time passengers spend waiting behind others in the aisle, as well as people moving out of their seats to make room for someone else in their row. The time taken to get up will also have to be reduced. , Associate Professor of Engineering and Management at Clarkson University. He described United’s change as “a step forward”.
However, he said based on his research, it could go even further. Boarding groups for each seat type may also be divided for the front and rear of the aircraft, so that those in window seats at the rear of the aircraft may board first. It is known as “inverted pyramid” Method.
Or, airlines may treat each passenger or family traveling together as their own boarding group. In that model, the first person to board would be in a window seat at the rear of the airplane, and the next person to board would be in a window seat two rows in front of that person.
United’s goal of saving up to two minutes per flight may not seem like a lot, but if enough flights take off quickly, the benefits add up, Professor Milne said.
“Over the course of days, weeks, months and years, potentially where they can really make money is if they save enough boarding time so that they can actually take an extra flight during the day,” he said.