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British Airways trialling ‘personalised boarding times’ at Heathrow Terminal 5

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British Airways is trialling a new ‘personalised boarding system’ at Terminal 5 on selected routes.

If you are travelling to Bridgetown, Dallas Fort Worth or Mumbai before 28th November you will be invited to take part.

How does personalised boarding work?

The idea is that you will be given an exact time, to the minute, when you can board the aircraft. There is no need to turn up at the boarding gate before your allocated time.

The main beneficiaries here will, of course, be passengers with lounge access who can remain in the lounge until 2-3 minutes before their allocated slot (unless it’s a B or C gate ….).

You will receive a text message from British Airways when online check-in opens for your flight, encouraging you to register for the trial. You will also be able to register at the check-in desk by scanning a QR code.

Here’s a typical screenshot you will see on your device:

As you can see, boarding for this flight is due to start at 15:47. However, the passenger is told to arrive at exactly 15:49 when they will have a boarding slot.

At the appointed time, the green tick appears in your device. Any delays to boarding times are notified by SMS message.

Will this trial work?

Let’s just say that you can see the flaws.

It won’t work well for anyone on a B or C gate unless they are aware of how long it takes to reach the satellite terminal.

Anyone with lounge access already has, in theory, ‘board when you want’. You would be in Group 1 in most cases and, if you turn up when Group 1 had already been called, you can walk straight to the front via the (by then) empty priority boarding line.

More importantly, for passengers without lounge access, the only quiet place to sit in Terminal 5 is down by their gate. As more and more shops have been created, the seating areas in Terminal 5 have shunk – or been turned into dedicated seating for those buying something from Pret etc. If this plan is to keep people from congregating in the gate areas, the solution lies elsewhere.

That said, there is clearly some benefit here if it works well. The bottom line is that you need to be happy that BA will keep you informed about boarding delays and that it will send out notifications at the right time. Once the confidence is there, people will start to use and trust the system more.

If the trial goes well, British Airways will extend it to more routes later in 2021.

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Comments (92)

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

  • Scott says:

    For a company that cannot consistently figure out following an orderly system of group 1, group 2 etc., they seem to be trying to make something simple as complicated as possible.

    • Alex Sm says:

      I still remember a comment by a member of staff sceptical about the introduction of self check-in / bag drop desks: “You will still need a human next to the machine to mend it”…

      • Track says:

        Which they do follow, and sometime you have an annoying human asking you unnecessary questions (nothing to do with docs check), before they let you near machines.

        Why do they need to ascertain simply that you have a flight on the day..

  • MKB says:

    On all my recent flights where I have missed Group 1 boarding, there has been no separate priority lane. There has just been a single queue that I joined the back of.

    With this new approach, human instinct in most cases will still be to arrive before your time and crowd the lane entrance. I hope it works, but I fear it won’t. Worth a try though.

    • Huw perry says:

      I agree especially when returning to the UK. Group 1 boarding means nothing

  • riku says:

    I was amazed the first time I took a domestic flight in Japan. Boarding time for a full 777 was about 15 minutes before departure time which I thought meant the flight was late but I came to learn that they’re just amazingly efficient in Japan with boarding (as with lots of other things). Everyone was onboard and doors shut and we departed on time.

    • Ian says:

      Have you seen how they manage to pack people onto the Shinkansen in less than 5 minutes? I like an on-time departure as much as the next person, but not sure its worth a couple of broken ribs.

      • Qrfan says:

        It’s not a problem because their hospitals are also very efficient 😉

      • numpty says:

        i remember being on a train platform in Tokyo, where they have marking on where to queue up. But this platform had mutliple markings on it, so 2 different queues were being formed as the trains come in and out so close together.

    • John says:

      Well, for domestic flights in Japan you only need a BP, but at Heathrow you need to do the biometrics thing which takes longer.

      And with 2 aisles on a 777 there’s less waiting for oblivious people in row 2 to take their coat off etc

      • Andrew says:

        I’ve never needed to show ID for a BA domestic from Heathrow.

        Has that changed now?

  • Rich says:

    B gate lounge is open and so you can sit in there? It’s only an issue with C gates. That aside, precision boarding has so many potential pitfalls it’ll end up being a ‘nice try but it’s just impractical’ I reckon.

  • Prins Polo says:

    OT, but what’s going on with Exec Club? Already 18th and everything is still down – was supposed to be up and running in the morning of the 17th…?

  • Nick says:

    IMHO, yet another senseless ‘system’, probably devised by ivory-towered IT department ‘gamers’, who haven’t even taken a real flight in their life!

  • Mouse says:

    Good on BA for experimenting with this

  • Paul says:

    Some got paid to come up with that?

    So board at a specific time and wait on the jetty for 15 minutes for the crew to finish their checks!!

    • Richie says:

      Air Bridges/Jetties aren’t for holding queues of passengers.

      • John says:

        Tell BA that

      • Andrew says:

        Isn’t that a Heathrow thing? At EDI half the passengers are usually sent outside in the rain to to go in the back door.

        Has anyone done an efficiency review of dual disembarkation? It feels like by having passengers exit by the back door as well, the plane empties in less than half the time.

        • Rhys says:

          Funny that – using twice the number of doors results in half the time required!

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