Alaska Airlines To Introduce ‘Group Boarding’ From July

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Alaska Airlines has announced that it want’s to “make life easier” for passengers by changing the way its calls people to board its aircraft. Importantly, it’s not how the airline will have passengers board the aircraft that’s changing so much as how Alaska Airlines identifies who boards when.

Historically Alaska has tried to follow the following boarding order:

  1. 35 minutes before departure – Uniformed military personnel, passengers requiring special assistance and families with children under the age of 2.
  2. 30 minutes before departure – First Class passengers
  3. 25 minutes before departure – Alaska Mileage Plan elites and passengers who have purchased premium seating
  4. 20 minutes before departure – rest of the aircraft boards in two groups (customers behind exit rows first).

From 18 July 2018 things will change.

Alaska will be separating passengers into 5 groups (First Class and Groups A through D) and the group you’ll be boarding in will be displayed on a new-style boarding pass.

a screen shot of a flight schedule
Alaska Airlines New-Style Boarding Pass

Here’s a breakdown of the new boarding timeline that Alaska Airlines has provided:

“30 to 35 minutes before departure: Agents at your gate will make initial announcements letting you know that boarding will begin shortly. This is your cue to gather your things and be ready, but you don’t need to move to line up.

When boarding begins (approximate 5 minute intervals):

We’ll be boarding 4 groups – after pre-boarding (guests who need special services or additional time to board, and families with children under 2), active duty military, and First Class:

A: Million Milers, Alaska Mileage Plan MVP Gold 75K and MVP Gold status elites

B: Alaska Mileage Plan MVPs, Premium Class

C: Remaining guests seated in the back half of the aircraft

D: Remaining guests seated in the front half of the aircraft”

Alaska says that, as well as having clear announcements, there will be displays in the gate area showing the current boarding status (which group(s) is/are currently boarding) to minimize confusion.

a group of green and black text
Alaska Airlines Gate Area Boarding Displays


Aside from naming the groups that passengers are being divided into there appear to be two primary changes:

  • Higher elites will board ahead of lower elites
  • Non-status Economy Class passengers seated towards the front of the cabin will be last to board.

Boarding is essentially a truly tedious process but knowing how it works is important if you want to be sure that there will be ample space for your carry-on once you board.

There won’t be too much change for those with status but, for non-status passengers, things will be a little different.

If you don’t have elite status recognised by Alaska Airlines you may want to consider booking a seat towards the rear of the aircraft if you want to be certain of finding space in an overhead bin for your carry-on.

If you don’t have status and you think you’re going to be in a hurry to get off the aircraft be aware of the risk you run by booking a seat closer to the front of the Economy Class cabin – yes you’ll disembark quicker than if you were seated further back but you run the risk of having to gate-check your carry-on if there’s no room left in the overhead compartments (although I suspect this will only be an issue on the busiest flights).

What do you think of Alaska’s boarding policy changes? Not really an issue or are you going to be badly affected?

Featured image – Alaska Airlines