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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.

  • LostAntipod says:

    Glad BA have finally woken up that the boarding experience at their home base is poor, particularly for their premium pax.
    I flew to EDI last week and a flustered gate agent kept shouting “we are only boarding groups 1 and 2 at this time, please wait until its your turn”. When i reached her i pointed out “do you realise the information screen above your head says “now boarding all passengers”? The look on her face. She didnt know, and she’s managing the boarding. Not blaming her specifically – BA just dont have a grip on the process. Go back to separate lanes for groups, and put the signs where people can see them.

    • Blair says:

      Yes, signs and separate lines. It’s not revolutionary how to resolve. Absolutely no policing of boarding at LHR; the group 1 call goes out and anyone just wanders into the queue.

    • Andrew says:

      Often at EDI the queue can be so long that it merges with EZY boarding queue alongside.

      • Jonathan says:

        Pre Covid (& possibly again now), well over half the plane would be Group 1 or 2 on an EDI, GVA, JER etc so even when they police it there’s not much benefit. I’d rather stay in Lounge & wander over as last few are boarding. There’s always space in a nearby overhead bin if you’re prepared to rearrange stuff so it’s positioned appropriately.

        • Catalan says:

          @Jonathon. You’re exactly the type of passenger that this trial is targeted at. The ones who’d rather stroll down to the gate ten minutes before departure time and then delay the aircraft whilst looking for somewhere to stow their carry-on. I’ve witnessed it so many times.

          • Jonathan says:

            If you ever flew BA then you’d know they close the gate 20minutes before departure.

            Turning up 5 mins before gate closing just means I avoid the scrum of people desperately trying to be the first on board with their 2 oversized carry-ons, “duty free” purchases & winter coat which they stuff in the bins with no thought for others (normally then closing the bin as some sort of statement of ownership).

            I have a 100% hit rate of walking on with no queuing, scanning the bins en route to my seat, finding space for my 1 regulation bag & being seated in my aisle seat before the gate closed time. Apologies if I offend anyone by asking them to hang their coat on the seat hook provided (as I do when the flight is full) so a bag can fit in the locker.

  • Alan Robertson says:

    Are you also guaranteed a specific overhead space for your carry-on bags?

    • John says:


    • gordon says:

      That is a issue that needs to be addressed…. I don’t always use a carry on but I get fed up with late boarders that try and find a overhead slot for their carry on down the isle somewhere and once the plane has landed your waiting to disembark but are delayed because of the confusion caused by people trying to retrieve them….

      • Jonathan says:

        You’re not late if you board >20mins before scheduled departure. BA’s failure to police hand baggage limits & appropriate use of bins is the issue. There’s always space in front of your row if you know what you’re doing & if it does go behind you then common courtesy says you wait to retrieve it rather than try & be a salmon battling upstream.

  • Doc says:

    I have my doubts this will work. My parents who were due to fly yesterday had all sorts of issues with the BA website when trying to upload their travel docs including the COVID stuff and it would not allow them and we had lost of issues at check in yesterday. If something like that doesn’t work, I cant see how this is going to work and is going to create all sort of issues.

  • r* says:

    Its not gonna be great for ppl in low groups as presumably they will board in somesort of seat order so anyone boarding last will find theres no overhead bag space near them.

  • Mike says:

    “empty priority boarding line”, when I flew out of T5A in October there was no priority boarding line at all (no sign, no banded off line) and I was there before boarding started (just one large queue). BA not only have to call by group, but have a priority line AND enforce it, so that if they’ve called 1-3 they turn back group 7.

    • Blair says:

      Yes! Some naysayers will say we’re being snobby but when I buy a CE ticket I do so in part because I don’t want to compete for overhead space. I regularly see some grabbers that board early, shove their case up above say row 4 then head down to row 10!

    • Blair says:

      In MAN, BA use separate queue for Group 1-3 and then Anyone Else. Those boarding from the Group 1-3 line who are in a higher group number get turned away. Not so at LHR.

  • Paul says:

    “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.”
    Have these returned to T5 yet? Been missing since social distancing thing.

  • Andrew says:

    The system won’t work. You’ll arrive from the lounge at your allotted time and it’ll be a free-for-all and then join a long queue down the airbridge.

  • Andrew says:

    To note – if the aircraft has a First cabin, CW and silver customers are in Group 2 and only First and Gold are Group 1

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