United Airlines Says New “WILMA” Boarding Process Will Save Time
United Airlines will implement a new boarding plan for economy fliers that the airline says will significantly save onboarding time and money. Beginning on Oct. 26, passengers will be subjected to a six-group boarding procedure called WILMA to save “up to two minutes of boarding time.”
CNN reports that the passengers boarding a commercial flight is one of the most challenging things for United to execute. The process has been dubbed WILMA or window-middle-aisle. The primary boarding groups will still get on first, but for economy-class passengers without frequent flier status will board in order of window seated, middle seats, and then passengers in the aisle seats will board the plane last. United said in a company memo that WILMA “was tested at four domestic line stations and one hub, and it’s faster.”
WILMA will have no change in boarding procedures for United passengers with disabilities, the highest level of frequent flier status, first class, or business class.
Clarkson University’s John Milne described that change as seeming large to save a few minutes but explained that even just a minute mattered for Airlines like United.
“Saving even one minute in airplane turn time can sum up to several hundred million dollars per year for a large airline,” Milne said. Citing his expertise with over 20 journal articles on airplane boarding, Milne noted that time savings would equate to “particularly large savings for an airline result when the boarding time reduction leads to offering an additional flight during the day.”
Milne continued to posit another system that could be even better than WILMA. He told CNN about the “reverse pyramid” method. The method is slightly more complex than WILMA and includes four different boarding groups.
“The Reverse Pyramid method boards faster than WILMA, and it remains simple,” Milne said. “If airlines can tolerate more complexity – and there is little evidence that they do – there are even better methods.”
The method separates passengers, first being window seats in the back half of the plane, then middle seats in the back half and window seats in the front half. The third group will be aisle seats in the plane’s back half, middle seats in the front half, and the fourth and final group is the aisle seat passengers in the front half of the plane.