Photo: Matej Kastelic/Shutterstock

United Airlines Is Changing Its Boarding Order, and It Makes Aisle Seats Far Worse

Airports + Flying
by Morgane Croissant Oct 18, 2023

Every frequent traveler worth their salt knows that the best place to sit on an airplane is in the aisle. You can get in and out of your seat whenever you need to use the bathroom or stretch out your legs, and you can be one of the first ones to get out of the plane when the ride is over. Detractors of this rock-solid theory tend to bring up how it’s a shame to miss the lovely aerial views out the windows, but I say that those views are not nice enough to make anyone of sound mind want to be crammed against the cabin wall with nowhere to escape. Let’s not even talk about the middle seat which, I suspect, is an ongoing social and physical experiment meant to determine how easily you can crush people’s body and spirit at once.

But aisle sitters, like me and every other superior traveler out there, may soon need to reconsider their position — literally.

United Airlines is so keen to shave just two minutes off the boarding process that it is set to start boarding economy passengers starting with the window seats, followed by middle seats, and finally aisle seats in a boarding process called WILMA (an erroneous acronym meant to refer to Window-Middle-Aisle.) WILMA boarding is scheduled to start on October 26, 2023.

The idea, in itself, is a good one. When window seats board first, there’s no passengers seating in the middle and aisle seats, preventing the whole mess of having people get up from their seat to let others get to their own. The process will seemingly be more orderly and should prevent blockage in the aisle.

But while order and a faster boarding process are positive changes, there’s something a lot darker coming down the pike for aisle sitters: no overhead bin space.

With prices to check a bag remaining high, travelers will continue to bring their larger carry-ons with them and take the risk of having to gate check their bag if there isn’t enough space. That means that boarding last will always inherently carry some risk, and with this change, the risk falls more squarely on those who pick an aisle seat. So the very people who have been carefully scheming to get out of the plane first will be the ones who will have to check in their luggage — and wait for them patiently on the other end.

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