Getting on an airplane might be the bane of some travelers’ existence, but United Airlines is planning to make things a bit easier. The airline will begin boarding economy passengers with window seats first in order to expedite the boarding process, according to internal documents reported Tuesday.
The change, to be implemented on Oct. 26, will potentially cut up to two minutes from boarding times on each flight, according to a United internal memo obtained by The New York Times. This technique is known in the industry as WILMA, or window-middle-aisle, referring to the order in which passengers board.
United will assign passengers to seven boarding groups under this change, according to details of the plan seen by The Washington Post. There will still be standard preboarding for certain passengers, “such as those with disabilities, unaccompanied minors and active duty military,” the Post reported. This will be followed by first-class and business-class passengers, whose boarding processes will also remain the same. Finally, economy passengers will board using the WILMA technique.
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Cutting two minutes off of the boarding process may not seem like much. But experts say that it could represent a drastic change for United, a carrier that has reportedly seen its boarding times increase by multiple minutes since 2019. Those two minutes “are crucial for both the airline and for passengers, as a departure running behind by even that amount of time can cause tarmac delays that throw off passengers’ travel plans and become costly for carriers,” said Jessica Puckett, a senior editor for Condé Nast Traveler.
United’s new WILMA plan will be used on all domestic flights and some international flights, according to the company’s memo. The carrier said that it had tested the process before with positive results.
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