British Airways to Introduce a New Boarding System, But Will it Work?

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According to internal memos that have leaked out, British Airways is preparing to roll out a significant change to its boarding procedures on 12 December, 2017. And if you’ve ever complained about 90% of the passengers on your flight joining the “priority” queue, you will probably look forward to these changes. Although, the main issue for both frequent flyers and once-a-year-holidaymakers will be the clarification, implementation and enforcement of the rules, rather than the rules themselves.

The new system will have BA passengers automatically placed into groups, and this will be prominently printed on the boarding pass. For now, there will be five separate groups.

For short-haul flights:

  • Group 1 = BA Executive Club Gold, Oneworld Emerald, and Club Europe passengers
  • Group 2 = BA Executive Club Silver and Oneworld Sapphire passengers
  • Group 3 = BA Executive Club Bronze and Oneworld Ruby passengers
  • Group 4 = No status, Economy Class passengers on “Economy Plus” fares
  • Group 5 = No status, Economy Class “Basic” fare passengers (i.e. Hand Baggage Only)

For long-haul flights:

  • Group 1 = BA Executive Club Gold, Oneworld Emerald, and First Class passengers
  • Group 2 = BA Executive Club Silver, Oneworld Sapphire and Club World passengers
  • Group 3 = BA Executive Club Bronze, Oneworld Ruby and World Traveller Plus passengers
  • Groups 4 / 5 = No status, Economy Class passengers (perhaps organised for efficient boarding of larger aircraft)


The cynic in me can only imagine one reason for these changes… to subsequently be able to charge no-status Basic fare passengers for “priority boarding”, just like the low cost carriers British Airways is trying to mimic. Or at least to tempt those with hand-baggage only to buy up to a Plus fare, to avoid the risk of their roll-aboard requiring a gate check to go in the hold.

But clearly the success or failure of this new system will depend on the enforcement of it. Since there indeed are BA flights where nearly every passenger has at least “Bronze” status, then a free-for-all ensues, and staff just cannot be bothered – their main responsibility is getting every passenger on board as quickly as possible. A more structured approach to “priority boarding” would certainly be appreciated by frequent flyers. My experience of flying in the United States is that the system can work well, but only if enforced properly to ensure that interlopers cannot board at will. (of course, I’m usually boarding in one of the first groups so I couldn’t say for sure whether any carnage ensues after I have boarded)

Since I happen to have a BA flight scheduled for 14 December, I’ll be sure to report back with my experience of the new system… What do you think of these changes? Irrelevant? Useful?

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