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United’s “Better Boarding”

Date: April 6, 2021

Quietly, without much fanfare or attention, United announced a return to “Better Boarding” in last Friday’s United Daily.  Better Boarding is United’s reference to a return to the previous concept of preferential boarding of Premier’s first and ultimately the use of boarding groups 1 – 5.

United claims the current process of boarding from back to front, by row number, is viewed as “disorderly.” While it is not clear who is making this claim, if you were to ask any Flight Attendant who has worked this past year for her/his opinion, it’s anything but disorderly.  The current boarding process is viewed by most Flight Attendants as orderly, organized and easy to follow and which; the benefit is a faster boarding process that accommodates more passenger carry-on luggage.  Arguably, what it doesn’t contemplate is the wishes of United’s premier customers, as United characterizes in their statement, who “value early boarding.”

While we all recognize and value the feedback of our premier passengers, we are also faced with the need to distinguish the reality of our current circumstance; the majority of passengers on our planes these days are leisure travelers who in many instances are new to United Airlines and not premier level status.  In addition to the benefits of the more organized and expedited boarding process, most passengers now also remain in their seats, waiting to get up and retrieve their luggage row-by-row when deplaning.  Were you to survey a majority of Flight Attendants, we will tell you directly that we haven’t had this level of a “clean” boarding or deplaning process in a decade, and the feedback we’ve received overall from the passengers we care for daily is, “Why haven’t you done this sooner?”

As we stated initially, this announcement was not given a great deal of dedicated attention nor was AFA advised of the imminent return to zone boarding.  In fact, the decision was made without obtaining any feedback from AFA on the Flight Attendant view of this proposed change in procedures.    As we would expect the company to acknowledge, more than any other United employees, Flight Attendants spend more time with passengers, actually present in the cabin not only during the flight, but also during the boarding process. Rather than mess with the current success, why not solicit our feedback and consider the value of our perspective before announcing the change, not to mention implementation?

As of Monday, there were more than 140 comments on United’s post in Flying Together. The majority by Flight Attendants support the current procedures, while options offered by non-aisle working employees, suggest the return to be a better choice.  Apparently, there is something to be said about the “eye of the beholder.”

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