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United Airlines Is Making a Huge Change Next Month. Are You Ready For It?

I fear chaos and confusion.

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BY Chris Matyszczyk - 05 Aug 2018

United Airlines Is Making a Huge Change Next Month. Are You Ready For It?

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.


I've been waiting for this.

I suspect you haven't.

Somehow, it's one of those things that makes you wish every time you went through it, some authoritative voice would warn you by shouting: Brace! Brace!

The issue here is one that causes every airline problems: boarding.

There are no good ways of doing it. There are only the bad and the worse.

While Southwest has its little letters and numbers, other airlines have tried two lines, then five lines and then two again.

Today, it's United Airlines.

In June, I offered a progress report on the airline trying to go back to a two-lane system that might be described as a less a system and more a hope.

Now, Skift's deeply reliable Brian Sumers reports that the testing is over and a new system is being launched in September.

It seems to consist of, yes, just the two lanes.

One will be blue, the other green. I can already see members of a certain political party protesting that neither lane is red.

The blue lane will be for pre-boards and Group 1's. The green lane is for the remaining riffs and raffs.

There will, though, be other visual excitements.

United promises "updated gate area digital signage." It'll also offer pings to your United app when it's your time to board.

This one is novel -- the airline says it'll update boarding times when flights are delayed.

And, for the snootier and self-important types who enjoy status, there'll be "improved recognition and better positioning of customer status levels to create more balanced boarding groups."

I would leap to chandelier level if I could understand what that last one is.

It sounds like the airline will somehow sniff out your status with special equipment. Or, perhaps, dogs.

Wouldn't it be lovely if spotlights shined down on the most exalted passengers as it's their time to board?

Still, what will the airline do to those of lower castes who have paid $9 or more for Priority Boarding? (This might be more accurately described as $9 or more for overhead bin space.)

I have quite some sympathy with airlines trying to corral passengers in the limited space offered by most gates.

People naturally want to get on the plane as quickly as possible. But they all want to do it simultaneously.

They don't often follow instructions because they know the process will always be awful.

I contacted United to ask what it had learned through its testing and whether there'd be something very new in its "new" system that would create greater order and discipline.

And even excitement.

I'll update, should I hear.

Meanwhile, you can look forward to being a member of a balanced boarding group.

I hope the actuality doesn't unbalance you.

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