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Delta Air Lines

Delta Changes Its Boarding Procedure

Delta Changes Its Boarding Procedure
Jeff Edwards

Starting next year, Delta Air Lines passengers will board according to a color-coded system based on fare class rather than by seat assignment. Travelers with elite status will still be given priority boarding in most cases, but many Platinum and Gold Medallion members will now board after passengers booked in the Delta Comfort Plus cabin.

Early next year, Delta Air Lines will “simplify” its boarding process. This week, the legacy carrier unveiled a new color-coded “branded boarding” process. Passengers will now be called to board by specific ticket class rather than zone.

Instead of a pre-boarding call, the first passengers will board in the Delta One group. Next, Delta First Class flyers will be called to the jetway. In a departure from the previous zone boarding system, Delta Comfort Plus customers will have their own boarding position. Only then will main cabin economy class passengers be called to line up for their flight. Delta Basic Economy Class flyers will, of course, board only after everyone else is already on the plane.

Airline officials say the new scheme for boarding aircraft has received positive feedback from customers during numerous test runs. According to the company, “Boarding zones for Delta-operated flights worldwide will be renamed to reflect the branded fare purchased, while still prioritizing customer loyalty. As a result, Delta will increase the number of boarding groups to encourage fewer customers to line up in the gate area at any one time.”

Delta hasn’t forgotten its most loyal flyers. Diamond Medallion members will still board with Delta One passengers in the first group. The airline has also created a sort of catchall “Sky Priority” boarding group for other passengers with status or branded credit cards. The Sky Priority group will board after Delta Comfort Plus ticket-holders.

“Every customer values consistency and a sense of knowing what to expect when they’re traveling,” Delta Senior CMO Tim Mapes said in a statement announcing the new boarding process. “We have been listening to our customers about the stress they often feel at the gate before boarding, and implementing small changes for years. This latest enhancement further refines how Delta’s process works and is designed to better link the Delta product they purchased to differentiated experiences throughout their journey.”

The new system is also expected to have interactive features which will allow flyers to eventually monitor the boarding process in real-time from mobile devices. Should the new features work as advertised, the system could very well help to keep the gate lice staring at their cellphones and away from the boarding area until it’s time to queue up.

[Photo: Shutterstock]

View Comments (25)

25 Comments

  1. atlman34

    December 11, 2018 at 3:10 pm

    Way to screw your top/most loyal customers Delta!. I just read the press release that Delta Comfort Customers will now be boarding prior to Sky Priority Platinum and Gold members. This is a HUGE SLAP IN THE FACE to your most loyal customers. Way to screw your EVCs who spend more ($20,000 this year to reach platinum) and have for the past 12 years. Nice to know someone who paid $50 one time a year to upgrade to Comfort plus is more important. This is a disgrace. Hello Southwest in ATL

  2. sdsearch

    December 11, 2018 at 3:33 pm

    Do the gate lice really have the airline’ s app installed on their phones. I’m thinking that average gate lice doesn’t, and their phones won’t help them know what order to board if they don’t have the Delta app installed, will they?

    So I think it’s overly optimistic to assume that something displayed on a Delta app on a phone will limit gate lice. Now, may good signage at the gate itself will, i don’t know, but I doubt something only available on a Delta app will.

  3. jamesteroh

    December 11, 2018 at 4:52 pm

    Why is Delta allowing C+ passengers to board before Platinums who fly at least 75,000 miles a year and spend at least $,7500 a year???

    Some passengers would rather have an exit row than a C+ seat. And for those of us that book at the last minute a lot of times middle seats are the only ones available in C+ and a frequent flyer could be paying a lot more for his c- seat booking last minute than the once a year flyer paid for his C+ seat.

    Way to screw over your top flyers Delta.

  4. emkn45

    December 11, 2018 at 6:27 pm

    sdsearch, do you have to be so rude and condescending? You want to debate the value of Delta’s new system or comment on how it is not necessarily favorable for loyal flyers, go ahead. But you certainly seem to think you’re just all around better than the average flyer. In the end, a human is a human is a human. Don’t be such a jerk.

  5. drvannostren

    December 11, 2018 at 11:43 pm

    8% of men are colorblind, including me. So you’ve just alienated or confused me in all likelyhood (partly joking). What’s so hard about a numbered system, or letters?

    Normally I would say this is unimportant, boarding groups are pretty standard now, we all get it…but I did actually buy a DL flight for 2019 to avoid a WN one. I’ve never flown WN and while I’d like to, I didn’t really wanna do the whole cattle boarding process and not having the assigned seats. Just flew LH out of HEL and the boarding process was…business and then everyone else. It’s a mess, tiny boarding gate, then LH out of FRA bigger area, same ridiculous mess. So I’m in favour of segmentation…but then there’s AA who has like 700 groups?

    This really shouldn’t be so hard, no one is reinventing the wheel here. In the end you’re always gonna have lice-ing because everyone is so depserate for the overhead space.

  6. indiekiduk

    December 12, 2018 at 4:23 am

    I don’t think slowing down boarding to make more money is a good strategy for a full service airline. It’s what budget airlines do. To make more money they should be adding creative new premium services that budgets could not offer.

  7. bigpapa7272

    December 12, 2018 at 4:23 am

    This is a prime example I’m an airline fixing something that isn’t broken. Delta’s boarding system was .not that bad. It was simple and easy to understand.

    Also it’s plain to see that loyalty with Delta was given the shaft with penetration with the new boarding system, but then again most places these days don’t value loyalty. They value revenue over loyalty because of one thing greed

  8. flyshooter

    December 12, 2018 at 4:32 am

    I flew Delta from ATL to RSW last week. 20 minutes in the priority line to check my bags. I’ll never complain again about a three minute wage in the A List line at SWA.

  9. Nanda Chai

    December 12, 2018 at 4:44 am

    I’m enjoying this change in boarding procedure even more after reading the first 3 comments above. In a supplemental announcement, Delta said they will be providing extra large boxes of tissues at the gate to sop up all the crocodile tears.

  10. jsbh

    December 12, 2018 at 5:10 am

    The article above suggests that branded credit cards are part of SkyPriority. But looking at Delta’s graphic, it would appear this may be an error.

    Delta shows that the previous Zone 1 is now Main Cabin 1 (boarding immediately after SkyPriority) and includes “Silver Medallion Members, Sky Team Elite, eligible Delta SkyMiles Credit Card members, Corporate Travelers and other loyalty program members not boarded with a higher seating priority.”

  11. cynosura

    December 12, 2018 at 5:12 am

    “Scheme” is right. So a passenger who flies one time per year in Comfort trumps a Platinum flyer or Gold flyer? What a crazy caste system. Delta really needs to re-evaluate what they the word “loyalty” means. They appear to have no concept of what it means.

    Delta, always trying to fix what wasn’t broken. This is beyond a slap in the face to their most loyal customers.

  12. eefor jfp

    December 12, 2018 at 6:03 am

    OK, let’s think about this a little. The main reason to board early is for overhead bin space. Comfort plus is a small separate section just behind first class (or whatever the highest cabin is called). If a frequent flier is in a comfort plus or biz class seat, he will board with that group. If he is in an economy seat, he will board BEFORE the rest of economy class. either way, he gets his carry-ons near him and is able to board before the great majority of the passengers. I think this is fine but then I don’t fly economy very often and when I do, getting to still board before everyone else in economy would be more than enough to make me happy.

  13. cynosura

    December 12, 2018 at 6:20 am

    They say “to encourage fewer customers to line up in the gate area at any one time”

    Regardless of what their scheme is, customers flock to the gate area once boarding starts. I’ve been flying them for decades. Nothing will change.

  14. top987

    December 12, 2018 at 7:07 am

    I guess I’m the only one who sees this as a positive.

  15. twowheela

    December 12, 2018 at 8:08 am

    Not sure this is that big of a deal. I like the added zones, but being Diamond this doesn’t effect me much. As long as there is still a Priority Lane, I am good. See what happens.

  16. canyonleo

    canyonleo

    December 12, 2018 at 8:17 am

    Way to screw me (Sky boarding group) DL. Major slap to the face. Too bad (in a race to the bottom) the competition is worse (for other reasons).

  17. KRSW

    December 12, 2018 at 8:30 am

    I’m ALL for simplifying the boarding process, as there are far too many zones now and the kettles/gate lice don’t have a clue. I always thought it should have been 3 groups to begin with: 1) Handicap/more time needed, 2) Loyalty/Paid F/J, 3) everyone else

    BUT… I’d base it on loyalty more than anything else. Paid F, of course, but after that, meh. C+ isn’t anything to write home about. I say this despite not having any real status this year (Silver Medallion, yay!).

  18. nycityny

    December 12, 2018 at 8:57 am

    From what I can see all they’re really changing is letting Comfort Plus board earlier. As another poster mentioned, the article is wrong about credit card holders who will actually board after Platinum and Gold.

    The funny thing is one of the “benefits” Delta has touted for Comfort Plus has always been “reserved overhead space” though they have never really complied with this. Allowing these passengers to board first in the rear cabin comes closer to fulfilling this “obligation.” And it doesn’t really affect anyone else’s overhead space.

  19. cynosura

    December 12, 2018 at 10:45 am

    I see more passengers hobbling, limping and needing “special assistance” to board the plane early (as so many already do) to beat Delta at their own game. Upon landing, those same passengers retrieve their bags from the overhead bins like champion weight lifters and sprint off the plane like gazelles. One flight attendant told me they call that “the Delta Miracle”.

  20. picturegal

    December 12, 2018 at 11:01 am

    The simplest and quickest way to board the plane would be from back to front. The airlines used to do that before they decided on all the different tiers of importance. Loyalty rewards suggest that there is a true choice in which airline to fly — lucky you if you live someplace where there is much of a choice. Delta has over 75% of the flights out of Atlanta.

  21. spartacus

    December 12, 2018 at 1:29 pm

    It’s another way to get that E-plus revenue. Cue up Cuba Gooding, Jr. shouting, “Show me the money!” I did appreciate during a recent trip being invited to board first as a military veteran. Not sure if that was just for Veteran’s Day travel, but it was only offered for the ATL-BRU flight.

  22. Zacnlinc

    December 12, 2018 at 9:05 pm

    Gate Lice and people boarding our out ther zone don’t care about these changes as long as the GA are not enforcing the rules!

  23. sdsearch

    December 13, 2018 at 9:19 pm

    emkn45, I don’t understand your complaint about my post. I was not commenting on Delta’s policy AT ALL. I was commenting on the LAST PARAGRAPH in the ARTICLE ABOVE which claims that the boarding order being available on the Delta app could somehow result in the elimination of the gate lice issue. I was commenting on that paragraph of the article and NOTHING MORE, and I thought that would be obvious to someone who had read the article through to the end. But I guess if you hadn’t read the article through to the end, you might not have understood what I was referring to, sorry. I should have made it more clear what exactly I was commenting on.

  24. Dockdogs

    December 15, 2018 at 1:13 pm

    So Really You want to Board LAST. But also be sure you have overhead space. How can we make that happen these days as as loyalty member?

  25. Logan_monday

    December 20, 2018 at 9:13 am

    Platinum here with a 15 year history of gold/1k etc on Delta/UA and others… When you pay up, you move up. If you are loyal and book early, the airline moves you up ahead of time. If you book late, you get what you get. Boarding after the small number of E+ folks and before the rest is hardly a burden. Most of the time I’ll be there anyway and when I’m not, I’ll still get room for my bag. And next year when I’m not Plat anymore because I got to spend more time with my family this year, I’ll just pay up for the e+ seat.. and I’ll get upgraded to first more often on my higher fare class. Nothing to see here.

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