Delta Experiments With A New Boarding Plan at ATL

Mar 3, 2017

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Thursday morning, Delta announced the implementation of a brand new boarding process, making it more orderly by directing passengers into boarding groups with pillar-style markers within its gate area rather than having crowds of passengers spilling out into the main walkways of the concourse.

In the press release, Delta’s Senior Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer Tim Mapes explained that the carrier is working to enhance the overall customer experience, with easy boarding and less crowding and confusion at the gate leading to a more positive transition to the plane. Customers will be able to provide feedback as the process rolls out, and if it goes well, you may soon see it unveiled at other airports.

Delta’s home base, Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL) is going through a makeover of its own in the form of a $6 Billion renovation project, which includes plans for a seventh concourse and a sixth runway, as well as upgrades to the exterior drive-up areas, which will better assist with traffic flow management.

Its debut comes on a small scale and if you have flown with Southwest in the last 10 years, those pillars will look familiar. People used to say Southwest had a “cattle car” boarding process — before 2006, each passenger got a boarding pass with a number, and the gate agent would call passengers to board in groups of 30 at a time, which is pretty much what the legacy carriers — American, Delta and United — have been doing this whole time. Although Southwest eventually changed to its current boarding process, which allows crew to “turn” a plane in under 45 minutes, many airlines still board in “Zones,” which even Mythbusters proved was inefficient — check out the video below to see what I mean.

I tend to fly domestically with Southwest more often than any other airline, and have found its boarding process to be the most orderly. Every passenger gets an assigned place in line, so there’s no need to become what industry employees call “gate lice,” — passengers who cluster in the boarding area prematurely, often before their plane even arrives and completes disembarkation. It’ll be interesting to see if Delta can pull off this new Southwest-style of boarding, especially if it works well and other airlines start considering it, too.

Featured image courtesy of Delta Air Lines.

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