United's new boarding rules take aim at gate congestion

United Airlines is introducing a new boarding process in an effort to relieve overcrowded gates.

Already in place at Los Angeles International Airport since February, the carrier on Tuesday rolled out the change at United gates nationwide, following similar moves early last year by American and Delta. 

United said it decided to test a slew of different ways to board on thousands of flights across multiple airports after hearing complaints from travelers and employees. The result is a simplified gate layout scaling back to two lines from the five used previously. 

United's new boarding model involves a two-lane, color-coded operation with a staggered boarding call. The airline will first board top-tier frequent flyers, active members of the military and those with children ages 2 and younger. 

United — Introducing Better Boarding by United on YouTube

Next come first- and business-class travelers, who will also use the first boarding lane. Travelers lining up in the second lane include some frequent flyers, United credit card holders and those who paid more to board earlier. 

The three economy-class groups will board through lane 2, with basic economy travelers the last to board. 

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Simplified gate layout

United Airlines

Still, some travelers were confounded by the new system, with one United passenger calling it out as "ridiculous" on social media. But another applauded the airline for "listening" to its customers.