It’s good news for United Economy customers who prefer window seats. The airline announced a new boarding policy (called WILMA) that starts on October 26. WILMA prioritizes boarding for passengers in window seats. Why? It’s all part of an efficiency effort by the airline, and United says this change will speed up boarding by more than two minutes. 

Why is it called WILMA?

WILMA has been around for a while. It’s an industry acronym that stands for first boarding passengers seated by a window (W), followed by those seated in the middle (M) and finally those seated on the aisle (A).

Is this new for United? 

Well, not exactly. In 2017, United applied the WILMA boarding process across its flight schedule extensively, but discontinued it when they rolled out Basic Economy, citing carry-on limitations at the time. They’re bringing it back now. 

What’s the supposed benefit of WILMA?

Time savings. They’ve done studies that show this process of boarding saves on boarding time. Even though United says it’ll save a whopping 2 minutes per flight – time is money! When customers are queried about what they find painful about air travel, boarding can be a pain point. 

Will this affect my frequent flyer benefits?

Definitely not. The new, prioritized boarding group system still preferences certain fliers, including the various rewards program members. 

Who stands to benefit most with the new policy?

It seems that folks who pay Economy and prefer the window, will benefit most, since they’ll be able to board before everyone else in Economy who booked the middle and aisle seats. 

Who stands to lose with the new boarding policy from United?

People who like the aisle stand to lose the most – including possibly even a place to store their bags. If you’ve ever boarded later in the process, you know that on some flights the overhead baggage compartments can fill up. If they do run out near your seat, you may have to store your bag in another part of the plane, or even check it and pick it up on the jetway after your flight. 

What if I am traveling in a group with someone who qualifies for a better boarding group than I do?

That’s okay. United says everyone traveling on the same ticket gets to board with the “highest applicable boarding group.” So if your boyfriend is active military but you’re not, as long as you’re on the same ticket you can also board with his group, “Pre-boarding.” Or if you’re an uncle traveling with your sister and her newborn – you will qualify pre-board with the family. 

United Boarding Groups Qualifying Passengers
Pre-boarding Customers with disabilities, unaccompanied minors, active-duty military, Global Services members, families traveling with children 2 and under, Premiere 1K members
Group 1 United Polaris Business, United First, United Business, Premiere Platinum, Premiere Gold, Star Alliance Gold
Group 2 Premiere Silver, Star Alliance Silver, Chase and specific international card holders, Paid Premiere Access
Group 3 Economy Window seats, Exit row seats, NRPS and NRSA
Group 4 Economy center seats
Group 5 Economy aisle seats
Group 6 Carry-on restricted Basic Economy and customers with no boarding group on their boarding pass

Will WILMA win United new fans? 

It remains to be seen. For the average traveler, it’s hard to see how saving two total minutes in boarding will present any discernible time savings. But you can bet that those travelers who get separated from their carry-on will complain. 

On the other hand, if you like sitting on the aisle, you’ll not have to jump up a couple of times to let people step over you before the airplane even takes off. That might be attractive for customers. We’re really curious what you think. Does this new plan seem efficient and solidly customer-centric, or about to exchange one set of inconveniences for another? Let us know in the comments below!



  1. Every one should put their luggage into the overhead compartment where they are sitting. It’s not fair for passengers searching for empty overhead compartments to put their luggage when it should be over your seat.

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