Airlines are always on the hunt for the quickest way to board passenger. Some have tried boarding back to front, most try to board by groups, and Southwest is known for its open-style seating split into three letter groups.
According to an internal memo, United Airlines will change the way it boards economy passengers in the hopes of cutting down time at the gates. From October 26, the carrier will implement the ‘WILMA’ method which stands for window-middle-aisle.
Passengers who are either pre-boarding, have status or are flying in a premium cabin will continue to board in their traditional group numbers, but regular economy passengers will board depending on which type of seat they are assigned to.
Window seat passengers will get first preference, boarding as group 3, with middle seat passengers following along as group 4. After that, aisle seat passengers will then board as group 5. On paper, it makes sense to fill the aircraft from outside in as it should eliminate the need for passengers to step over each other.
Unfortunately basic economy passengers still get the smelly end of the stick, boarding last as group 6, but this will only apply on flights that operate domestic service, or to destinations in the Caribbean and some parts of Central America.
WILMA was tested at four domestic airports and one hub, and saved roughly two minutes during the boarding phase. While it may seem miniscule, in the grand scheme of things, it could result in better operations efficiency throughout the day.
There are a few exceptions, one being that passengers booked under the same reservation have the option to all board together under the earliest applicable group in that booking.
WILMA isn’t new to United, and was actually its preferred boarding method up to 2017 when basic economy was introduced. Due to technical limitations on the number of boarding groups at the time, passengers boarding via the WILMA method were eventually lumped together, removing any effiency gained in the first place.
With the airline now having the option to reintroduce group 6, it means they can once again board economy passengers using WILMA to its somewhat fullest potential.
[Featured Photo: Famartin/Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0 Deed)]