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How Do United Boarding Groups Work

Last updated: August 22,2022
Originally Published: August 22,2022
by Jestan Mendame

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Just like any other airline, United Airlines has its own boarding process that prioritizes certain groups of travelers, particularly those with premium fares, over others. It’s a great perk to have but United Boarding groups can be confusing especially when there are multiple groups and sub groups.

It’s hard to keep track of the other lower groups aside from the preboarding and elite level groups. In this article, we’ll dive deeper into what the different boarding groups are and what to expect during the boarding process.


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United Global Services members will join Boarding Group 1.
United Global Services members will join Boarding Group 1 (Image courtesy of Canva).

What Are The Different United Boarding Groups

There are 6 United boarding groups in total: Pre-Boarding and then boarding Groups 1 to 5. The Pre-boarding group will be the first ones to board the planes, followed by the others who will line up at the two lanes (blue and green) at the gate.

It’s a more simplified process compared to boarding lanes in the past that had multiple lanes for each boarding group.

Boarding Groups 1 and 2 will line up first. Group 1 will line up at the blue lane while Group 2 will line up at the green lane. Late passengers who belong to Groups 1 and 2 will still pass through the blue lane.

After the first two groups have boarded, the staff will call on Boarding Groups 3 to 5 to line up at the green lane.

The United Airlines boarding procedure has 2 lanes to expedite boarding: Green lane and Blue lane.

Your boarding group will depend on the fare class and elite status that you have, however, the requirements for the preboarding group are a different case. Here are more details:

Pre-Boarding

  • Unaccompanied minors
  • Customers with disabilities
  • Uniformed members of the U.S. military
  • United Global Services members
  • Families traveling with children aged 2 and younger
  • Premier 1K members

Group 1

Group 2

  • Premier Silver members
  • Star Alliance Silver members
  • Customers who have Premier Access or Priority Boarding. United Premium Plus passengers have Premier access.
  • Cardholders of any of the following cards below:

Groups 3 to 5

  • Economy Plus passengers
  • United Economy passengers
  • Basic Economy passengers*

If you have access to multiple boarding groups, you can have the option of choosing the group you want to join. For example, if you are a Star Alliance Gold member but purchased a ticket in Economy Plus, you may join either Boarding Group 1 or Boarding Group 3.


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United Priority Boarding VS United Premier Access

Priority Boarding and Premier Access are add-ons that can be purchased on top of your fare. These two products allow passengers to board the aircraft ahead of others.

What Is United Priority Boarding?

Priority Boarding is a product that’s available to passengers who aren’t cardholders of United co-branded cards or those that don’t have elite status.

Prices start at $15, although they may vary depending on your flight schedule. Passengers who bought Priority Boarding will join Boarding Group 2, so they can skip the lanes at the gate and board the aircraft earlier during the entire boarding process.

According to United, purchasing Priority Boarding will allow lower boarding groups to have priority baggage space on the overhead bins since it gets full by the time Groups 3 to 5 board the plane. However, most critics would say that it’s just another marketing strategy to charge passengers extra for carry-on bags.

Here are some of the policies for purchasing Priority Boarding:

  • You can only by Priority Boarding for flights on United and United Express®.
  • Priority Boarding benefits only apply to flights for which they are purchased.
  • Basic Economy passengers cannot purchase Priority Boarding.
  • You can transfer your Priority Boarding benefits if you make voluntary changes to your flight.
  • Refunds are not allowed if you cancel a flight for which you bought Priority Boarding.
  • Your Priority Boarding benefits will be transferred automatically in the event of involuntary flight cancellations or schedule changes.
  • Passengers with Priority Boarding are not exempted from check-in time limits.
  • You can purchase Priority Boarding for multiple passengers on your flight reservation but you must purchase Priority Boarding for each passenger.

What Is United Premier Access?

United Premier Access includes all Priority Boarding benefits, but on top of that, you’ll also get priority services at check-in lines and security lines at the airport. This means that you’ll have an expedited experience from the moment you enter the airport up until you board the aircraft.

Prices also start at $15, and passengers who bought Premier Access will also join Boarding Group 2. Take note that some fare classes, such as the United Premier Plus, will already include Premier Access benefits. The policies are a bit similar as well.

  • You can only by Priority Boarding for flights on United and United Express®.
  • Priority Boarding benefits only apply to flights for which they are purchased.
  • Basic Economy passengers cannot purchase Priority Boarding.
  • You can transfer your Priority Boarding benefits if you make voluntary changes to your flight.
  • Refunds are not allowed if you cancel a flight for which you bought Priority Boarding.
  • Your Priority Boarding benefits will be transferred automatically in the event of involuntary flight cancellations or schedule changes.
  • Passengers with Priority Boarding are not exempted from check-in time limits.
  • You can purchase Priority Boarding for multiple passengers on your flight reservation, but you must purchase Priority Boarding for each passenger.
  • Premier Access does not include priority baggage handling.​​​​​


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There are a total of 6 United Boarding Groups: Pre-boarding and boarding groups 1-5.
There are a total of 6 United Boarding Groups: Pre-boarding and boarding groups 1-5 (Image courtesy of Canva Pro).

How Does The United Airlines Boarding Process Work?

The United Airlines boarding process is quite similar to other airlines. Once you enter the airport, just pass through the check-in and security lanes for passenger verification and baggage drop.

It’s recommended that you arrive two hours earlier prior to your departure, especially if you’re not familiar with the airport or if you have bags to check in.

If you have elite status, a Chase-United card, Premier Access, TSA Precheck membership, or CLEAR membership, you may arrive at the airport an hour early since you’ll have priority benefits at check-in and security lanes.

You can always check your boarding pass or your United Airlines app to get an estimated time of your boarding time. Depending on the size, most flights let passengers board the plane 35 to 50 minutes before taking off.

Preboarding passengers will go first, which will then be followed by Boarding Groups 1 and 2. Group 1 will line up at the blue lane, while Group 2 will line up at the green lane.

Groups 3 to 5 will line up at the green lane if they are called. Late passengers from Groups 1 and 2 will pass through the blue lane.

How To Earn United Miles?

If you’re a United Airlines frequent flyer, then you’re probably earning MileagePlus miles already from your flights. But did you know that there are other ways to earn miles aside from flying?

You can earn miles from everyday purchases if you have any of the United co-branded credit cards below:

Alternatively, you can also earn MileagePlus miles through a transfer partner like Chase. This means that you can transfer the points that you’ve earned from your Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred into your MileagePlus account.

Chase has a 1:1 transfer ratio to United, which means that transferring 10,000 Chase points will be equivalent to 10,000 MileagePlus miles.

Bottomline

The United Boarding Groups are actually a lot easier to remember compared to other major airlines. For example, American Airlines has 9 boarding groups while Delta Airlines has 8 boarding groups.

Not to mention, United’s two-lane boarding procedure is very efficient, which provides passengers with a smooth boarding experience when traveling.

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