The "angst" travelers feel at overcrowded gates may soon be eased at United Airlines terminals, an exec for the airline says. That's because United just began a new initiative designed to relieve that particular "passenger pain point," as CNBC puts it, by changing up its departure protocol: The number of boarding lines has been cut from five to two, and overeager customers are now asked to stay out of the boarding area until their boarding group (one of six in total, including pre-boarders) is announced. "It's too congested," a UA rep says of the current procedure, which often results in arriving fliers having to push their way through throngs of departing ones. Forbes notes customers can also opt in to receive push notifications via the mobile app, meaning they can hang out in nearby restaurants or shops until they receive an alert on their cellphones that it's time to board.
Over the past year, United test-drove a variety of boarding options on about 12,000 flights, ending up with this system, which is similar to the way American, Delta, and Southwest queue up. United has been using the procedure at LAX since winter and will now implement it at all locations, per USA Today. It's also spreading passengers around more equitably within its six boarding groups, which includes pre-boarders (e.g., families with young kids, service members), first-class passengers and frequent fliers in groups 1 and 2, and then everyone else in groups 3, 4, and 5. "The boarding process was one of the top areas customers told us they wanted improved," another UA rep says in a statement, noting customer and employee feedback guided the airline on the enhancements. (United had some "unfortunate dog incidents" earlier this year.)