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How do British Airways boarding groups work?

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How does British Airways board its aircraft? Let’s take a look at the different boarding groups used.

First introduced in 2017, the British Airways boarding process involves ranking passengers based on status and cabin class. Those with higher status or those travelling in premium classes board first; those with lower status or travelling in economy board later.

How do British Airways boarding groups work?

The idea was to avoid the scrum of people hovering around the gate and streamline the process to make it more relaxing for everyone involved. That doesn’t always work, of course; often there are not enough seats at the gate to accomodate all passengers, leading to overcrowding issues regardless. It does at least mean that BA’s higher-value passengers get priority.

Not sure what group you are? Your group number should be printed in big letters on your boarding pass.

Introducing Group 0

Until recently, there were nine boarding groups, ranging from Group 1 (British Airways Gold Card holders or those travelling in First) to Group 9 (no status, travelling in economy at the rear of the cabin).

A new trial is now underway with the introduction of a tenth boarding group: Group 0. This is a new priority group reserved for British Airways Premier cardholders (we explain how you get a Premier card in this article) and those with Executive Club Gold Guest List status (explained in this article). The trial will be rolled out to all routes during late 2024.

How does British Airways boarding work?

BA treats boarding groups for short haul and long haul groups differently, further adding to the confusion, so we thought it was worth taking a look at the process.

Things get even more confusing when you consider ‘pre-boarding’ for customers who need assistance or have very young children, effectively increasing the number of groups even further.

How do British Airways boarding groups work?

British Airways short haul boarding groups

Anyone in Groups 1 to 3 are considered to be ‘Priority Groups’. Here is how British Airways ranks its boarding groups:

Pre-boarding

Families with children under 2 or pushchairs are invited to board first and should arrive 50 minutes before departure so that pushchairs can be stored in the hold.

Escorted passengers with mobility assistance will are also pre-boarded.

Priority Group 1

  • Club Europe passengers (short-haul business class)
  • BA Executive Club Gold members
  • oneworld Emerald members

Priority Group 2

  • BA Executive Club Silver members
  • oneworld Sapphire members

Priority Group 3

  • BA Executive Club Bronze members
  • oneworld Ruby members

Groups 4 to 9

  • Euro Traveller (economy) passengers

Groups 4 to 9 are numbered according to seat row number. Perhaps counter-intuitively, although it makes sense for practical reasons as long as groups are boarded in order, Group 9 is for people nearest the front.

In theory groups are meant to board in order. In reality this is rarely the case.

At the gate passengers are usually split into two lines – Groups 1-3 and 4+. In theory the gate is meant to call Group 1, followed by Group 2 etc. This either doesn’t happen (more likely on your return to Heathrow) or it is impossible to push through the crowd when your particular group is called.

In a recent novel twist in Dusseldorf, Rob recently experienced both lines – Groups 1-3 and Groups 4+ – being boarded together at the same time!

A quick note on hand baggage and boarding groups

On full short-haul flights, British Airways may insist that anyone travelling in Groups 4-9 hands over wheely cases at the gate to be placed in the hold. This has become increasingly common.

How do British Airways boarding groups work?

British Airways long haul boarding groups

Anyone in Groups 1 to 3 are considered to be ‘Priority Groups’. Here is how British Airways ranks its boarding groups:

Pre-boarding

Families with children under 2 or pushchairs are invited to board first and should arrive 50 minutes before departure so that pushchairs can be stored in the hold.

Escorted passengers with mobility assistance will are also pre-boarded.

Priority Group 0*

  • BA Premier Card holders
  • BA Executive Club Gold Guest List members

*As mentioned above, Group 0 is currently a trial programme limited to New York JFK and Boston

Priority Group 1

  • First passengers
  • BA Executive Club Gold members
  • oneworld Emerald members

Priority Group 2

  • Club World (business class) passengers
  • BA Executive Club Silver members
  • oneworld Sapphire members

Priority Group 3

  • World Traveller Plus (premium economy) passengers
  • BA Executive Club Bronze members
  • oneworld Ruby members

Groups 4 to 9

  • World Traveller (economy) passengers

Groups 4 to 9 are numbered according to seat row number. Group 4 is for passengers at the front of the cabin whilst Group 9 is for those sitting in the last few rows.

Boarding with friends and family

If you’re travelling with your partner, friends or family, you may find that you all have different group numbers.

As per the BA website, you will be able to board together:

“It is possible that customers travelling together may receive different group numbers. In this case, please make your way to the gate where you will be able to board together.”

You can board in any of your group numbers, and I often board in Group 1 with friends or family this way even though they have a lower group number on their boarding pass. Simply indicate to the gate staff that you are boarding together and it should be no problem.

(This article is part of our ‘BA Q&A’ series which explains how British Airways Executive Club works.  You can see all of our ‘BA Q&A’ articles here. )

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How to earn Avios from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (April 2024)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

Get 25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £20,000 Read our full review

There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £15,000 Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points. These points convert at 1:1 into Avios.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

40,000 bonus points and a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Run your own business?

We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,500 Avios.

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

Get a 10,000 points bonus plus an extra 500 points for our readers Read our full review

You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and FREE for a year Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

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