United Airlines recently re-implemented the WILMA (Window-Middle-Aisle) plane boarding system in an effort to streamline the boarding process for passengers and crew members. With this new system of boarding in place, United hopes to shave off at least two minutes from the boarding process. Let’s take a look at what the WILMA boarding method is.

Overview of the WILMA Airplane Boarding System

The WILMA boarding system provides clarity and organisation to the airplane boarding process. The airline’s aim is to make it easier for passengers to find their seats. With a simplified boarding process, United hopes to save time and increase customer satisfaction.

Passengers board the aircraft by specified groups. Group placement is determined by who’s traveling, MileagePlus status, and the passenger’s seat location. Economy-class passengers with no frequent flyer status board in the order of their seating arrangement: window seats first, middle seats next, and aisle seats last. Economy-class passengers traveling in a group are assigned to the earliest boarding group that applies to their situation.

Boarding Group

Pre-boardingCustomers with disabilities; Unaccompanied minors; Passengers flying with young children (under 2 yrs); Active-duty military; Global Services and Premier 1K members
Group 1Passengers with Premier Platinum and Gold status; Star Alliance Gold members; passengers in United Polaris, United First, and United Business cabins
Group 2Passengers with Premier Silver status; Star Alliance Silver members; United Explorer, Club and Presidential Plus Card members; Passengers with Premier Access or Priority Boarding
Group 3Passengers in Economy Plus or United Economy window or exit row seats
Group 4Passengers in Economy Plus or United Economy middle seats
Group 5Passengers in Economy Plus or United Economy aisle seats
Group 6Passengers in Basic Economy (except Premier or Star Alliance Gold members and qualifying Chase Card members); passengers who do not have a boarding group number on their boarding passes
This chart shows the the eligibility requirements for each boarding group in the WILMA boarding system.

What can passengers do to help?

United’s WILMA boarding system has the potential to help air travel become more efficient. This method of boarding hasn’t gone over well with a lot of passengers, but while it’s in place there are things that passengers can do to have a more pleasant experience:

  1. Get to know the WILMA system before your United Airlines flight. The more passengers that are familiar with the process, the easier the process will flow on flight day.
  2. Arrive at the gate on time and follow instructions from the airline staff. This helps maintain order and ensures a smooth experience.

What are the advantages?

The WILMA boarding method offers several benefits, including:

  • Reduced boarding time: By organizing passengers into smaller groups, the boarding process becomes more efficient, resulting in quicker turnarounds for flights.
  • Improved passenger flow: Grouping passengers based on seat location helps minimize congestion in the aisles and allows for easier movement within the plane.
  • Enhanced customer satisfaction (hopefully): The WILMA system aims to create a more organized and stress-free boarding experience for passengers.

What are the drawbacks?

While the WILMA system offers some advantages, it also has its disadvantages:

  • Less flexibility: Some passengers may feel restricted since they are assigned to specific boarding groups based on seat location. This reduces their ability to choose a preferred boarding position.
  • Potential confusion: The WILMA system may initially confuse passengers who are unfamiliar with the boarding process, especially if they are accustomed to other systems.
  • Challenge for families and groups: The system may separate families and groups wanting to board together but have seats in different locations.
  • Basic economy passengers may feel excluded: The system may exclude basic economy passengers from boarding with other groups. This can leading to a sense of exclusion or unequal treatment among passengers.

How will passengers know when to board?

United Airlines communicates the boarding process to passengers through announcements, boarding passes, and gate agents. Gate agents instruct passengers to board based on their assigned group.

Can passengers request to switch their assigned group in the WILMA Boarding System?

United Airlines encourages passengers to adhere to their assigned groups for a smooth boarding experience. However, they may consider accommodating individual requests if circumstances allow. In such situations, passengers can reach out to the gate agents for assistance.

The WILMA boarding method does have its advantages and disadvantages. It speeds up the boarding process but makes some travelers feel unfairly treated. Still, the process can help the airline make better use of its time and get passengers onboard efficiently and into the friendly skies sooner.

About Author

I'm a solo traveler and online TEFL teacher with a passion for discovering new and exciting travel destinations while sticking to a budget. Whether it's hopping on a plane for a quick getaway or embarking on a months-long trip, I'm always ready for a new adventure at a great price. I haven't been to every country yet, but I'm working on it!

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