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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.

  • Cheshire Pete says:

    Bridgetown, Dallas Fort Worth or Mumbai (unless it’s a B or C gate ….)

    Hmmmmm….

  • gordon says:

    In reply to Prins polo. Executive club still down. Maybe BA forgot to update pricision boarding into their system……😝

  • John T says:

    This sounds like a solution to a problem that doesnt exist. The average traveller will struggle to know exactly where their gate is at Heathrow, let alone be able to arrive there at an exact minute in time.

    • ChrisD says:

      100% agree. My team of highly paid, intelligent co-workers can’t even punctually join a WebEx which runs at the same time every week, and they don’t even have to time their walk to the keyboard!

  • Max says:

    Sounds overly complicated. Instead they could just have copied the new light-guided boarding system from Azul in Brazil.

  • planeconcorde says:

    Will be interesting to understand if this means people who don’t have group 1 or 2 status could get a time slot earlier than their group 3+ expected boarding time.

  • Conor Megaw says:

    What’s the nudge factor here? Unless they have a promise that this system will allow passengers to board earlier than they would otherwise, surely people will just ignore it for fear of being made to board later?
    I think to work properly, it would need to be enforced for all. I’m not sure that’s feasible given it relies on Bring Your Own Device

    • N says:

      You mean you’d rather queue for 20 minutes rather than sit down and browse your medium of choice and then be let to the plane in a 2-3 minute slot?

      I wouldn’t.

      • John says:

        I’d rather stay in the lounge as long as possible then be the last on board so we can be off as soon as I’ve sat down, at least on short haul.

  • Joan says:

    Off topic but I can’t get into my exec club account still – wasn’t it due to be sorted by the 16th? Thanks

    • Ian says:

      Did anyone really expect BA to complete an IT project on time and without a hitch? 🙂

      • Hulk says:

        At the best of times, the app takes 1-2 mins to move between pages for things like seat selection.

        There are so many airlines that allow everything to be self served on their apps or websites. BA are a sheetshow

      • James Harper says:

        You think it will work when they are finished?

    • gordon says:

      17th….

    • gordon says:

      17th but everyone in the same situation. Hopefully today 🤷‍♂️

    • Ian says:

      Login is available again but the system says my username or password is incorrect!

      • Distichon says:

        Isn’t even letting me try on the phone app, ans I can’t be bothered to try anything else for now, given what I heard the success rate seems to be.

  • Blair says:

    Last week I had a flight from T5 to MAN, showing as “will depart from A gates” until 20 mins before departure time when the gate was eventually displayed and was a B gate. Cue abject panic. I felt really bad for the later passengers who clearly missed the first train to B and were sweating/confused/crying upon boarding. Last year I also had a BA flight at T5 leave a third of the passengers behind who were seated at the gate area early when only some screens in the main shopping area of T5 displayed an updated gate number. No BA staff swung by the existing gate number to check if any passengers were there. So, in short, I will never use this service as I find BA at T5 quite shambolic.

    • sayling says:

      Can’t believe the latter didn’t make MSM news outlets – the click bait headlines alone would be everywhere, surely!?!

      • Blair says:

        Bear in mind this was at a time of limited travel so the plane was sparsely filled anyway. Short haul jet to DUB and so everyone was quickly rerouted. My checked in bag did make it to Dublin though on original flight, rather going against the theory that a no show passenger has their bag removed for security reasons.

    • Ian says:

      I had a similar experience recently travelling to MAN, though with a bit more than 20 minutes notice! I have to say the boarding experience at the B gates was much better than at the A gates, as ours was one of only three flights departing from there at the time.

    • Cheshire Pete says:

      Once also travelling to Manchester we were sitting in GF waiting for the gate to come up. Getting on for 25 mins before and still no gate. Popped down stairs to F&M and the flight was showing down there as A21 and now CLOSING! Fortunately the right end of the terminal, but it’s all automated IT isn’t it, and I guess no infallible!

      • Blair says:

        The BA app helpfully popped up on my phone last week “your boarding gate is open” at T-20mins but with no gate showing. Even they were confused as to which gate. MAN must be the bridesmaid when it comes to gate allocation.

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