British Airways Boarding Procedures

What are BA’s procedures for boarding short and long-haul aircraft? Who is eligible for priority boarding?

British Airways Self Boarding Gates - London Heathrow Terminal 5
British Airways Self Boarding Gates – London Heathrow Terminal 5
We receive a lot of search enquiries regarding BA’s boarding procedures, so we thought it would be helpful to set out how they work. Both in theory and in practice!

In summary…

BA offers early boarding for families and passengers with special needs on all flights.

BA also offers priority boarding for passengers travelling in first and business class and Bronze, Silver, and Gold Executive Club card holders (and Oneworld alliance Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald equivalents).

Passengers travelling in premium economy, economy and Blue Executive Club cardholders all board as part of general boarding.

BA does not operate the numbered grouping system adopted by many US airlines.

Early boarding for families and passengers with special needs

BA should offer early boarding for families and passengers with special needs before any other passengers on all flights.

Priority boarding – Short-Haul

On short-haul flights, BA should offer priority boarding through a dedicated priority boarding lane for passengers travelling in Club Europe and Gold, Silver and Bronze Executive Club cardholders (and Oneworld alliance Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald equivalent card holders).

Passengers travelling in Club Europe will be called for boarding first followed by cardholders by order of status.

Priority boarding – Long-Haul

On long-haul flights, BA should offer priority boarding through a dedicated priority boarding lane for passengers travelling in First Class, Club World and and Gold, Silver and Bronze Executive Club cardholders (and Oneworld alliance Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald equivalent card holders).

Passengers travelling in First Class will be called for boarding first followed by Club World, then cardholders by order of status.

Priority boarding – Theory and Practice

In practice, there can be difficulties with priority boarding:

  • The volume of first and business class passengers eligible for priority boarding can vary widely by route.  On a Boeing 747 bound for New York JFK there can be up to 100 first and business class passengers out of 275 passengers eligible for priority boarding.  On a Boeing 787 bound for Montreal, 35 business class passengers out of 214 passengers are eligible for priority boarding.
  • The volume of Bronze, Silver and Gold Executive Club cardholders (and Oneworld alliance equivalents) eligible for priority boarding can also vary by route.  Again, a route like New York JFK which is a popular business route where BA and Oneworld have a large presence in the US will have a lot of cardholders eligible for boarding.  A route like Montreal where BA and Oneworld are relatively weak in Canada will have far fewer cardholders eligible for boarding.
  • Not all aircraft board by jetty. If you are boarding an aircraft by bus to a remote stand (such as from Gate A10 at London Heathrow Terminal 5), you will not have a dedicated bus and you will be crammed on to the bus with all passengers.
  • The offer of priority boarding can be erratic.  On long-haul there should be no reason why it is not offered.  On short-haul, it can be more erratic.  Gate areas, particularly in the satellite terminals in Terminals 5B and 5C at London Heathrow can also be quite crowded.
  • The policing of priority boarding lanes can also be erratic.  Whether through ignorance, trying it on, or just impatience to get on the aircraft, a lot of passengers can occupy the priority boarding lane incorrectly.   Some London Heathrow ground staff can be quite “direct” when asking ineligible passengers to leave the lane.  Other staff members do not place the same importance on priority boarding.

General Boarding

Passengers travelling in World Traveller Plus, World Traveller and EuroTraveller all board as part of general boarding, which will sometimes be called by seat row.

One noteworthy difference with BA is that, unlike airlines such as Virgin Atlantic, it does not offer priority boarding for passengers in World Traveller Plus.

Airbus A380 aircraft

On Airbus A380 aircraft, First Class is located on the main deck with one of two Club World and World Traveller cabins. World Traveller Plus is located with another Club World and World Traveller cabin on the upper deck.

As such, there are separate boarding lanes for:

  • First Class
  • Club World main deck rows 10-15 and main deck passengers eligible for priority boarding
  • World Traveller main deck rows 20-42

 

  • Club World upper deck rows 50-59 and upper deck passengers eligible for priority boarding
  • World Traveller Plus and World Traveller main deck rows 70-83

From our experience, boarding lanes for Airbus A380 are well signed and managed at dedicated Airbus A380 gates at London Heathrow and other airports.

UK Domestic Flights

BA is currently trialing automated boarding gates using facial recognition technology on UK domestic flights at London Heathrow Terminal 5. This, and other self-service technology, is likely to expanded across the network.

Disembarkation

Passengers travelling in First Class and Club World are offered priority disembarkation from the aircraft. Passengers travelling in Club Europe have it by default (assuming passengers disembark from the front of the aircraft!).

If you arrive at a remote stand, then in all likelihood all passengers will travel on the same bus to the terminal. On some occasions there may be a priority bus for short-haul passengers in Club Europe.

If things don’t go to plan..

Then make your views known in the post flight surveys you receive by e-mail. If survey trends show issues with boarding on particular then the airline will address them.

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