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Airlines Looking To Modify Boarding Procedures
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Initial satisfaction earned after carefully reviewing cheap travel options, such as cheap airplane tickets, discount hotel rooms, and cheap vacation packages, can be dissipated after arriving at the airport only to face a bewildering set of boarding rules and groupings.
On some flights as soon as boarding begins there is a rush to the gate as travelers’ jockey for position to beat others onto the plane. Airlines have so many different tiers of boarding groups, based in part on their different levels of elite status members, and their co-branded credit card customers, that the result is frustration, crowding, unpleasantness, and stress.
American Airlines, the country’s largest airline, rolled out what it is calling a “simplified” boarding approach for flights on March 1st. Passengers are now being called on to board starting with Group 1, which includes first class customers and active duty military. The process goes through Group 9 which includes fliers who bought tickets on American’s new no-frills “Basic Economy” fare class.
Interestingly, American notes that its revamped nine group approach is a change in name only which only underscores how complicated boarding has become. American’s prior boarding grouping had “Group 1” actually be the fifth group called for boarding, following the airline’s elite frequent fliers and first and business class passengers who were subdivided into four groups of their own who boarded earlier.
Currently passengers board in the same order as before, with boarding starting with Group 1 running through Group 9. Boarding groups are printed on passengers’ boarding passes. American will continue to start with a pre-boarding call for passengers requiring extra time to enter planes.
Delta Air Line, USA’s second largest airline, is experimenting with its boarding process. Delta’s change impacts the physical location, unlike American Airlines, where the different groups stand as they line up to board the plane.
This test is running at Delta’s busiest hub, Atlanta, where the airline has placed branded pillars at gates in Atlanta’s B Concourse. Each pillar has been labeled with a corresponding boarding group. There is a “premium” pillar for the airline’s first class passengers and Diamond level frequent fliers and “SKY” for most other frequent fliers with elite status, followed by Zone 1, Zone 2, and Zone 3.
Delta’s expressed intent is to “take the ‘hold room’ feel out of the gate space” for waiting passengers. Delta’s goal is to implement an enhanced boarding process at additional airports this year depending on whether customer feedback proves to be positive.
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