Hallelujah! United Airlines is soon going to implement a new boarding procedure that it previously tested at a handful of airports, boarding economy passengers with window seats first in order to cut down on boarding time.
According to an internal memo obtained by the New York Times, United Airlines, for which SFO is a major hub, is about to roll out a new procedure under the acronym WILMA — loosely representing Window-Middle-Aisle. The first boarding group on United flights, after families traveling together and status passengers, will be those assigned to window seats. The next group will be middle seats.
Those who prefer aisle seats will now have to wait their turn until after window-seated and middle-seated passengers have boarded — which is something that could impact luggage space, depending.
It's not clear if the airline will distinguish at all between front and rear passengers — as travel advocates have long called for boarding from the rear to the front in order to cut down on boarding time.
According to its memo, United says that the WILMA method is expected to cut around two minutes from each boarding process. And the new boarding order is set to begin as early as October 26 on most domestic and some international flights.
On-time departure is an important stat for all airlines, and this new procedure — one of many that various airlines have tried over the years — should help with that. Departure time is measure from the moment the plane pushes off from the gate, which is often ten or more minutes after the boarding door is closed.
John Milne, an associate professor of engineering and management at Clarkson University, tells the Times that boarding changes like this are intended, ultimately, to boost profits — and the only real way to do that is if the airline can squeeze one extra flight into a plane's daily schedule by reducing times across the board.
Photo: Toa Heftiba