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British Airways to start boarding passengers by group from 12th December

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Following numerous trials, British Airways has finally decided to push ahead with boarding in groups.  The new process will go live on 12th December.

Your boarding pass will now carry a group number. 

British Airways boarding pass

These are:


Group 1 – BA Gold or oneworld equivalent, First Class passengers

Group 2 – BA Silver or oneworld equivalent, Club World passengers

Group 3 – BA Bronze or oneworld equivalent, World Traveller Plus passengers

Group 4 and Group 5 – World Traveller passengers, split by row


Group 1 – BA Gold or oneworld equivalent, Club Europe

Group 2 – BA Silver or oneworld equivalent

Group 3 – BA Bronze or oneworld equivalent

Group 4 – Euro Traveller

Group 5 – Euro Traveller on a hand baggage only fare

It is not clear what will happen with mixed groups – historically there has been an informal policy that children or partners could board with higher status passengers in the same group.

The key to this new policy working will be the announcements.  All passengers will be expected to be seated by the departure gate.  They will be strongly encouraged not to congregate by the boarding area.

Only when their boarding group is announced should they stand up and make their way to the gate.  The idea is to replace what can be a scrum with a more laid back process.  It will also be easier to police hand baggage, since it will be clear to boarding staff at each stage in the process how much each group should be allowed to bring on.

Will it work?  We will see …..

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Comments (130)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • C77 says:

    If I were BA, I’d be making all hand baggage only fares eligible only for stowing items under the seat in front. Period. No exit row seat assignments or front row seat assignments either – not even for status passengers. That way it differentiates more clearly against a baggage inclusive fare and the features available with that which, either rolled aboard or checked in allows the traveller more options regarding where to place their belongings when they purchase their ticket. Group 5 then wouldn’t be an issue. I’d have HBO printed on the boarding pass too (hard copy as well as mobile) in order to easily identify potential offending passengers during the gate boarding process who suddenly have hand luggage bigger than most passengers checked luggage and expect it to be dealt with. Also, on board I’d make the info available for cabin crew to identify on the pursers iPad should problems on board arise – for referral purposes. Commercial aircraft (when I last checked) are primarily manufactured from composite or aluminium and not elastic. There’s only a finite amount of space available and sometimes, peoples idea of hand baggage is laughable at best and beyond reasonable at all other times. HBO was designed as the low-cost option and should be enforced as such. Yellow tags to identify under seat items get ripped off as soon as the agents head is turned – people just don’t care. And that’s the problem.

    • Optimus Prime says:

      Oh yes, I’m baffled by people carrying huuuuuuuuge handbags – same size or even bigger than some trolleys. Cabin crew say nothing to them – it’s a handbag, isn’t it?. Then they get on the plane and of course put it in the overhead cabinet next to their trolley. When fellow passengers from their row arrive… they have no room left for their trolleys.

      • C77 says:

        I think when there’s only 3 crew on board, its difficult for crew to police (an open door cannot be left unattended for example) so to a greater extent they’re more reliant upon effective gate management in the first place. If that doesn’t happen, the whole thing falls to bits. That’s why as much as groups boarding sounds positive, it will ultimately fail until they address what a HBO fare is allowed to bring aboard, how they police the policy as a united front and begin to rigorously charge for bags placed in the hold as a result. The main issue here I can see is that with group 5 being the last group to board means any passengers unable or refusing to pay to check bulky items will have to be rather quickly offloaded. Otherwise the flight risks a delayed departure which the dispatcher will not want against their name/punctuality record. Payment transactions at the gate will be also need to be extremely slick.

        I don’t have a problem with large handbags, so long as if that’s the secondary item it goes under the seat. More often than not this doesn’t happen and this is where it all goes to pot.

  • Martin says:

    An A380 boarding at Heathrow has 3 entranceways. Not sure how this will make any difference

  • Vand says:

    Boarding by BA is totally subjective based on the staffing. So this ‘new’ zoning will only be as effective as the gate staff choose to make it. Sometimes having Sapphire is worth nothing because they call Emerald, and then ‘everyone else’ etc. As BA Gold i’ll be interested to see how this is implemented on flights after the 12th.

  • Alex says:

    If group boarding really encouraged people to stay seated until their group was called then the term ‘gate lice’ wouldn’t exist in the US

  • mutley says:

    This is another case of fiddling while Rome burns, who cares about when you board? Given BA’s atrocious levels of service in both club and economy I would have thought getting on board and prolonging the agony for an extra 10-20 minutes a touch masochistic. BA need to wake up and realise they are not competing with EasyJet and Ryanair, for the best critique/ suggestions of what’s so wrong with BA. and more importantly how to fix the problems I suggest you guys have a look at Rowan Jacksons excellent article published on his linkedin page and also on BA

    However I digress, surely the elderly, the disabled and families with children should be given priority irrespective of airline status, or price paid for a ticket. It’s called common courtesy.
    I had to laugh out loud at the comment by Jules ” I’ve earnt the right” …..Ooooooh it so smacks of me me me entitlement!

  • CeliaG says:

    Flew out of Cape Town in First for the first time last year and were horrified at the scrum for security, which was not very reassuring it its thoroughness when we eventually reached the front.
    We wondered why people in the whatever it was lounge left early. We found out why when we reached the First queue board at the gate and were told to join the back of the long line of First, Club and any other passengers that we had assumed were travelling WT, by the stony-faced gate staff. No priority boarding at all and a long wait standing in line. Apparently, this is quite normal and were told by the cabin crew that “This is Africa.” I can’t imagine group boarding of any kind being used there.

  • CeliaG says:

    Correction: my husband says it was priority boarding but not applied, so no WT were in that queue. Apologies.

  • ChrisG says:

    Part of the problem is expectation. I paid for two Club Europe seats so we had the extra hand luggage. Why? because when at Heathrow we had to collect from Boots (airside), specialist food and medicine to take with us for our child. So I arrive at the gate having enjoyed my time in the lounge and as I step through priority boarding line, I have a gate agent telling me that two of my hand luggage bags must go in the hold because the plane is full.

    I’m not unreasonable but practically all of our hand luggage was for the benefit of my child. If the medicine and food was suitable for hold baggage, I would have bought it on my local high street and checked it in but its not. I received not sympathy.

    In the end the purser came to the gate to find out why they were waiting for us. The purser immediately agreed that my view, said that it was his responsibility to find room on the plane for Club Europe passengers and that the gate agent was acting outside of their remit (the crew had not asked for any extra luggage to be checked).

    At the purser’s request, I feed all of this back to BA and got completely fobbed off.

    • the real harry1 says:

      cool story, bro

      except you don’t get an extra hand baggage allowance when travelling in CE

      I agree, the gate agent could have been more helpful if he/ she had listened

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