Note: This story was written earlier in March, but we opted to hold off a bit before publishing it so we wouldn’t look like insensitive clods in light of United’s recent, um, customer service issues. They seem to be coming around and hopefully this will make things even better — Eds.
As of March 2, 2018, passengers flying in anything other than basic economy with United Airlines can purchase “early boarding” for nine non-refundable bucks, a la American Airlines. The fee allows travelers to line up when the gate agent calls for boarding group two.
If you’re already cool with the restrictions in basic economy, it’s a fair bet you’ve already made up your mind to trade “conveniences,” such as access to the overhead bins, for a lower fare. According to United spokesperson Maddie King, the airline already offers travelers the opportunity to purchase Premier Access, which includes the ability to access the premium (aka faster) TSA lines.
“Some customers already receive priority security access through programs such as TSA PreCheck, so this gives them an option of purchasing just the access to get on the plane quicker,” she said.
A United press release states, “This option is offered to customers for the initial price of $9, and its availability is closely controlled based on flight, date, time of day and day-of-week restrictions,” which leads one to imagine that the price could increase, if demand soars.
Asked whether this could potentially dilute the value of other status levels, King said that the new offering is the result of customer feedback. “We’re not expecting this to create a big difference in boarding group sizes.”
“Priority Boarding as a standalone product will offer choice to customers who want to board early yet do not want the full Premier Access product, primarily those with TSA PreCheck who do not need the security component,” said Merchandising Program Manager Jennifer Cool-Perik.