Airlines are always looking for ways to streamline their boarding process, hoping to reduce both the time it takes to prepare a plane for take off, and passenger frustration. Delta Air are the latest carrier to experiment with this process, after recently deciding to board passengers by fare rather than by zone.
Currently, passengers boarding a Delta flight are placed into one of six categories, from Premium and Priority boarding, to zones 1 through 4. There is also a private seventh group for active military personnel only. Passengers are placed based on how much they paid for their ticket, and the number of frequent flyer miles they have accumulated with the airline. The zone a customer is in is printed on the ticket, just below their seat number.
Under the new system, the number of categories will increase to either 7 or 8, depending on the size of the plane. The first group to board will be the new Delta One passengers, those who pay for the priciest, suite tickets available only on certain long-haul flights. Following this will be passengers in the First-class and Premium Select cabins, who were previously placed with those in Delta One.
The next group is Comfort Plus, those at the front of the main cabin. Currently, Comfort Plus passengers are lumped in with high-ranking frequent flyers, but when the changes take effect, the top frequent flyers will follow Comfort Plus passengers in a new group called Sky Priority.
After this, all that remains is the main cabin, which will be divided into 4 groups, Main Cabin 1, 2, 3, and 4. Customers who have racked up a few frequent flyer points will be placed in Main Cabin 1, while those who buy the absolute cheapest tickets available will board last as part of Main Cabin 4.
A press release announcing the changes states “Every customer values consistency and a sense of knowing what to expect when they’re traveling. 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.”
The new changes will come into effect worldwide from January 23 2019. The concept for the new system arose when gate agents suggested Comfort Plus passengers, those at the front of the main cabin, board together. After a two month trial, Delta said passengers found the new system easier and less confusing.