Delta testing a new metered boarding process in Atlanta

Feb 21, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Delta Air Lines is testing a new boarding procedure with the aim of speeding up the process and reducing congestion at the gate.

On February 20, the carrier tested a new system that meters the number of people in each boarding group on two flights departing its Atlanta (ATL) base. A reader reported the test to TPG and Delta confirmed it. The goal is to even out the number of people boarding at any given time.

“We are testing a new boarding process on select flights designed to make the experience easier and decrease crowding at the gate,” Delta spokeswoman Olivia Mayes told TPG. The Atlanta trials were “the first in a series of tests we’ll be running over the next few months and is based on customer feedback and focus group research.”

Sign up for the free daily TPG newsletter for more airline news!

Delta currently has at least seven boarding groups, depending on the type of aircraft:

  • Delta One, Premium Select or First Class
  • Delta Comfort+
  • Sky Priority
  • Main Cabin 1
  • Main Cabin 2
  • Main Cabin 3
  • Basic Economy

When a boarding group is called all at once, passengers tend to bunch up and slow down the process. The new test keeps those groupings but subdivides them for boarding by metering how many passengers head toward the plane at any one time. The goal is to have an equal number trying to board at any given time.

Several TPG readers mentioned the boarding group experiment in the TPG Lounge, suggesting that Delta might be splitting the boarding into as many as 30+ separate groups. Elite frequent fliers still board in Main Cabin 1 or 2 and do not appear impacted, according to one reader.

Airlines are constantly looking for more efficient ways to get people onto planes. A quicker boarding process means less ground time and more time that an aircraft is in the air — where it can earn revenue. A 2008 report from Boeing found that in the course of 2,000 trips, a saving of 10 minutes off the time it takes to turn a plane around could mean more than 300 extra hours available for revenue flights.

Related: Math proves boarding planes is actually really efficient

Delta is far from making a decision on whether to implement the new metered approach to boarding. The process will be tested on more flights departing from Atlanta, as well as from other airports, in the coming weeks after which customer feedback will be solicited and analyzed. Only at that point will the airline determine if the process does or does not work, or needs adjustment, before it decides whether or not to roll it out broadly.

Featured image by Darren Murph/The Points Guy.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.