British Airways Actually Improves Something – The Boarding Process

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The British Airway boarding process has, for a very long time, been a joke….especially if you’re flying short-haul. What happens, in essence, is that the gate agents yell “charge!” and everyone tries to get on the aircraft at the same time.

In truth things are better on long-haul than short-haul but that’s akin to saying that dysentery is better than cholera – both are still pretty terrible.

The major issue that arises is overcrowding when it comes time to board and this is an issue purely of BA’s own making – they call just about everyone an “elite” flyer and then they don’t differentiate between them come boarding time.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard BA gate agents call Club Europe, Gold, Silver, Bronze, oneworld Emerald and oneworld Sapphire flyers to all board at the same time on some of my intra-Europe flights.

The gate agents are actually meant to call the different elite statuses to board separately but that rarely happens…so chaos ensues.

a sign next to a reception deskBA – where everyone has “priority” so no one has priority


The last time I was at Heathrow T5 (the C gates) I noticed this set up at the gate:

a sign in a buildingBritish Airways New Boarding Process

This was definitely new (at least for me) and there was one lane for “priority” and further lanes for, presumably, everyone else.

a sign in a roomBritish Airways New Boarding Process

I didn’t actually think all that much of this at the time as a single lane for “priority” boarding doesn’t solve anything – if BA is going to continue calling everyone with a BA card to board at the same time nothing changes.

But apparently things are changing.

Per this FlyerTalk thread British Airways will be implementing a new boarding process from 12 December 2017.

Passengers will be boarded by groups:

On Long haul

  • Group 1 will be Gold/Emerald/First.
  • Group 2 will be Silver/Sapphire/Club.
  • Group 3 will be Bronze/Ruby/Premium Economy.
  • Groups 4 and 5 will be economy.

On Short haul

  • Group 1 will be Gold/Emerald/Club Europe.
  • Group 2 will be Silver/Sapphire.
  • Group 3 will be Bronze/Ruby.
  • Group 4 is Economy.
  • Group 5 is Economy customers who have purchased a hand baggage only fare.

This could be good news.

If British Airways gate staff make passengers line up in lanes according to their boarding group then this may actually work.

Of course I’m assuming that gate agents who have shown little or no inclination to enforce the currently prescribed boarding process will suddenly do their jobs (I realise this is a stretch for some) but, in theory, this should improve things greatly.

In addition to doing their job gate agents will need to grow a backbone and turn away those passengers who, inevitably, will play the “oh I didn’t know card” and attempt to board when it’s clearly not their turn….but that could be a little too much to ask.

One Other Change I’d Like To See

Ideally BA would also take this opportunity to tighten up the policy that involves those with young children boarding early.

I’ve no issue with parents with small kids getting a bit of extra time to board because they’ve usually got a whole lot of child-related paraphernalia to stow before they can take their seats – it’s only right they’re given a bit more time to get on the aircraft. Where I do have an issue is when gate agents allow an entourage of 20 to board in support of just one or two kids.

a group of people sitting in chairs

There are a number of intra-Europe routes that I can name where, when you board as one of the first non pre-boarders, you can get to your seat only to find that all the overhead bins are already full because 10 generations of a family were allowed to pre-board in support of a single child.

This is ridiculous.

Overhead locker space is a scarce commodity nowadays so people are always going to try to stretch the rules as far as they’re allowed to. It takes strong gate agents to deal with this and, from what I’ve seen, possibly only one out of every four BA gate agents appears to be up to the task. The will need to do better….a lot better.

Bottom Line

British Airways haven’t confirmed that the boarding process will be changing from 12 December but I have no reason to disbelieve the member of cabin crew that provided the details of the new boarding process on FlyerTalk.

As it happens I’ll be passing through Heathrow T5 a few days after the changes are supposed to come into effect so I’ll report back on (a) if they have actually been implemented and (b) how the gate agents are doing controlling the masses.

Hopefully this is the start of a semblance of order returning to the BA boarding process….but we’ve had false dawns before so I’ll hold off on getting excited until I see things working as intended.


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