Window Seats Take On A New Desirability


There may soon be more advantage to choosing a window seat than just the view. United Airlines has instituted a new boarding process that allows window-seat holders to board before middle and aisle seaters. The so-called “WILMA” (window, middle, aisle) plan is designed to cut boarding time.

“It spreads people out along the aisle of the airplane so that more people can put their luggage away at the same time,” Jason Steffen, an associate professor of physics at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, told the Associated Press (AP). “That’s the main thing that speeds up the boarding process,” he said.

According to an internal memo cited by AP, the WILMA process will launch on Oct. 26. It was beta-tested at multiple locations, and data suggests it will cut boarding time by two minutes, on average. First-class and business-class customers will be unaffected by the change, as will priority-boarding passengers, including travelers with disabilities, unaccompanied minors, active-duty military and families with children who are two years old or younger.

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. I have lived in sea-side towns and been amazed at how many people living in them never see the sea from month to month or year to year.
    Similarly, you see people with window seats who never look out….

    • Continental airlines before the United buyout tried that, then discontinued due to passenger complaints. The passengers that had seats in the rear of the plane were taking up all the overhead carryon space. It will be interesting to see how long this scheme will last.

      • If you stow your bag in front, then sit in the back, your bag gets put in the hold and you can get it with the other checked bags. For the checked bag fee of course.

    • Efficiency is nice but all I care about now when boarding is being able to stow my carry-on baggage.

      Airlines have it all wrong, they should charge for carry-on baggage and not checked. I would willingly pay to guarantee a spot for my carry-on in the overhead near the front of the plane and not have to wait 20 minutes at the baggage claim. It would also make the boarding process a whole lot more relaxed.

      Why can’t Boeing and Airbus design airplanes to have enough overhead bin space?

  2. I was on a European flight a decade ago that used back to front, window to isle. Not a new idea. Went very efficiently, but then, they also didn’t have fifty special groupings go first.

  3. Every time that i have boarded a commercial flight, I was wishing that I was in the 182 instead. Between people bringing on things that they should have checked, to people that don’t know how to read the signs, it’s no wonder that the process takes this long.

    One of my vacations this year, I drove. I only go commercial as a last resort. I didn’t care about the cost or time savings. My people person mode was turned off.

    • Yep. I’ve flown commercial once in over 5 years because a niece had a destination wedding in Mexico and driving there was not safe. I’d like to see a few airline bankruptcies provoke change in the industry.

  4. The O,G,G method has never been tried officially but is unofficially used by every carrier, world wide, so frequent fliers are versed in how to use it efficiently. It’s fast, rude, crude and a great way to start your modern, fun, frustrating traveling adventure of today.
    On your mark.
    Get set,

  5. I hope that some day, someone much smarter than I, will explain why commercial airline travel brings out the “best” in people. At times, horseback seems more appealing – and I don’t care for horses very much.

  6. Boarding time is by far the most overly prioritized thing in modern air travel. It’s a symbol of the problem with all modern leadership that they love to put the spotlight on everything they can blame on others. Meanwhile, they go about improving and maintaining their own responsibilities in a mediocre or worse manner.

  7. I know a lot of people don’t like the Southwest boarding method but they are the only airline that can turn a plane around in less than 30 minutes. It is different but it works.

  8. The biggest problem with boarding back-to-front are the people who selfishly stow their carry-ons in the first empty overhead bin they find. That way they don’t have to carry their bag(s) to the back on the way in, or to the front on the way out.

    That leaves later passengers with no overhead space near their seats, and the flight attendants are tasked with storing the front-seat bags in the rear overheads.

    This ends up slowing down the boarding process, and makes for a chaotic deplaning as the front-seaters swim upstream to retrieve their bags from the back.

    I really wish airlines would strictly enforce size and quantity limits on carry-on bags. Or, as mentioned earlier, charge for carry-ons and offer free checked bags.

  9. I’ve loved plane all my life. But airline flying is now such a chore that my next planned event, about 600 miles, I’m driving rather than flying, and that’s with lots of SWA free points available. It’s just stress from approaching the airport through getting on the plane. And SWA is now changing their Early Bird process along with the costs now much higher than it began. And yea, if I do fly I do need a window seat. I want to look out at the glorious views we have.
    Most flights are full, so guess the process works regardless.