Both American and Delta made changes to their boarding process within the past month in an effort to simplify and expedite the passenger loading.
American’s changes, which officially went into effect on March 1st, were made to better segment the numerous priority travelers that were formally grouped into one or two boarding zones. Moving forward, American now separates travelers into nine boarding groups starting with First Class and active military members in group one and concluding with discount economy fares at the back of the pack.
Elite members of American’s AAdvantage loyalty program (including AAdvantage members who have the cobranded credit card) will now largely board with groups two through four, while premium economy passengers with no status will load in group five. Passengers with basic economy fares, which just went on sale, will board last.
Delta’s new boarding process, which is still in its test phase, is more focused on organizing passengers in the gate area. The airline is currently trialing a system of pillars across several gate areas at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson airport, a Delta hub, that clearly label boarding groups and queues. Used properly, the pillars will better organize passengers prior to loading and expedite the process for ground crew.
Southwest Airlines and United Airlines, among other carriers, currently use a similar system. If Delta’s new pillars receive positive feedback from consumers at Hartsfield-Jackson, it’ll expand to other venues.
Currently, Delta Air Lines boards passengers across seven groups and with simple priority and non-priority lanes at the gate.
Though American and Delta are each applying different initiatives this month, each has the same goal of bringing more efficiency to the boarding process. Operationally, airlines have recently underscored efforts to reduce aircraft time on the ground and maximize flight time and revenue. If these campaigns succeed — if only by shaving a minute or two off the process — the carriers can potentially save millions each year.