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New boarding procedure at SFO + Virgin PreCheck + CLEAR/PreCheck integration

United's new boarding area queues at SFO (Chris McGinnis)

United’s new boarding area queues at SFO (Chris McGinnis)

NEW BOARDING PROCEDURE AT SFO. United has installed new gate layouts at SFO and other US airports to help better manage the boarding process. Instead of waiting to board in bunches, each group is now divided into separate boarding lines in the following order:

  • Group 1 -  Global Services, Premier 1K, Premier Platinum, first, biz class
  • Group 2 -  Premier Gold, Star Gold, Premier Alliance Silver, Star Alliance Silver, paid Premier Access, Chase Club Card and Chase Presidential Plus Card holders
  • Group 3 -  All Economy Plus and regular economy window seats (most likely to get overhead bin space)
  • Group 4 -  Regular economy middle seats
  • Group 5 -  Regular economy aisle seats (least likely to get overhead bin space)

I flew United to Boston last week and have to say that the new system seems to be working well, even if it does remind me of the frequently derided Southwest Airlines “cattle call.” United claims the new boarding process is 20% faster. What do you think? Have you been through the new boarding process? Please leave your comments below.

Precheck logo TMVIRGIN JOINS PRECHECK. No airline can claim to coddle business travelers unless they are part of the wildly popular PreCheck program, which offers member access to TSA’s “trusted traveler” fast lanes at 40+ airports across the US. Last week, Virgin America joined American, Delta, United and US Airways as the PreCheck’s fourth US airline. (Southwest Airlines says, “we are working on it.”) This means that  members of Virgin’s Elevate program who are part of Global Entry or similar trusted traveler programs offered by Customs and Border Protection can now pass through special security lanes that do not require the removal of shoes, belts or coats and laptops can stay inside carry-on bags for x-ray screening. If you are already a member of PreCheck through another airline, be sure to add your PASS ID to your Virgin America profile! IMPORTANT: Members of PreCheck are randomly chosen—while it’s likely you’ll hear those lovely “three beeps” when your boarding pass is scanned by agents, it’s not guaranteed like CLEAR. For more information on PreCheck, Clear and Global Entry, be sure to see our post, The No-Hassle Travel Trifecta.

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CLEAR, PRECHECK INTEGRATION AT SFO. Clear and PreCheck are integrating operatons at SFO. PreCheck is currently located in T3 (main United entrypoint) and T2 (American and Virgin America) at SFO. (Even though United operates flights out of T1, there is no PreCheck lane there.) As part of the integration, CLEAR  says that Screen shot 2013-06-05 at 12.47.21 PMwill soon add  a location adjacent to PreCheck United Premier/First/Business security entrypoint on the western end of T3. Once the integration is complete, CLEAR members who also qualify for PreCheck will enter security under the CLEAR cube, and then get an escort to the PreCheck lane. How will it work? CLEAR CEO Caryn Seidman-Becker told The BAT: “It is the exact same CLEAR process as today, but when we scan the boarding pass, we not only do a name match, but our system can read also the embedded barcode to determine whether a member is PreCheck eligible for that particular trip. If eligible, the member is guided to the PreCheck physical screening lane.”

ONE YEAR OF CLEAR AT SFO. Last week CLEAR celebrated one full year at SFO and provided The BAT with the following tidbits: There are now six CLEAR lanes at SFO (at least one at every terminal) and the company has created 50 jobs in the Bay Area. CLEAR members have passed through CLEAR lanes at SFO over a million times. Nearly 200 Bay Area companies offer corporate plans to help their frequent travelers steer clear of security lines. San Francisco is home to the largest number of active CLEAR members.

ROCKETMILES REMINDER. Remember when we recently wrote about the new mega-mileage bonuses offered by new sites like Rocketmiles and Pointshound? These sites curate upscale hotels in major cities and offer travelers huge airline mileage bonuses for bookings made through them. For today only, Rocketmiles is offering DOUBLE miles on hotel bookings- so if you have any trips coming up, today would be the day to make those bookings. Plus, since we signed on for referral bonuses from Rocketmiles, we earn 1000 miles for each booking you make from this link- and so do you!

Have you seen the new-style Global Entry kiosks at SFO? (Chris McGinnis)

Have you seen the new-style Global Entry kiosks at SFO? (Chris McGinnis)

LINES FOR GLOBAL ENTRY KIOSKS? Last month BAT reader D.I. wrote in stating: “Just arrived on UA 838 from Tokyo and the Global Entry Kiosk line stretched to the entry to the hall (where you turn left to go to the kiosks).   Average line size seems to be increasing, which diminishes the value of this perk.  Any news on whether more kiosks are coming?” Seemed surprising since nearly every time I’ve entered the US via Global Entry kiosk, the wait (if there was one at all) was more like one minute. So I asked DI for more details. He said, “There were at least 50 people in line and it took about ten minutes. Actually this was faster than two weeks ago when the line was shorter but two of the kiosks weren’t working and also there were a number of people who weren’t familiar with the machines. On the good side, there is now an agent there helping people work the machines and to make sure people don’t wait when there are open machines down the line.” Have you noticed back ups at Global Entry kiosks at SFO or elsewhere? Please leave your comments/experiences below.

-Chris McGinnis

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