Delta changing the way you board — and some customers hate it

The ‘branded pillars’ Delta is using to organise passengers in some airports. Delta

  • In March, Delta began testing a new boarding system at select airports where passengers line up behind pillars that indicate their boarding group.
  • The system was designed to make the boarding process more efficient, but it’s been making some passengers more stressed out.
  • When Delta puts too many people in one boarding group, it makes other passengers worried that the plane will run out of space for carry-on items before they board, and increases the odds that passengers will become hostile.

In March, Delta Air Lines began testing a new boarding system at select airports where passengers line up behind pillars that indicate their boarding group.

Delta designed the system to reduce congestion near the gate and make the boarding process faster, but it may be causing more headaches than intended, as Delta passengers have expressed their frustration with the new system on Twitter.

Delta pillar boarding

The system can make passengers anxious

The problems come from the anxiety some travellers feel when they see other passengers lining up to board before they do. When an airline places too many passengers in one of the first boarding groups, the problem becomes worse. Passengers may be happier to see a high boarding group when they buy their ticket, but that excitement fades when they see how many other passengers received the same designation.

“That totally undermines the whole promise of exclusivity,” aviation analyst Henry Harteveldt told Business Insider. “You unintentionally create a lot of anxiety among passengers, because all they see is a large number of people and they know that there’s only so much room in the aeroplane for overhead bin space.”

Delta pillar boarding

Southwest might have a better model

Southwest Airlines uses a similar boarding system, but there’s one key difference: Passengers are organised into smaller groups of 15 and encouraged to line up in a specific order based on a number that’s printed on their ticket. That means travellers have fewer reasons to line up early or fight with other passengers for their spot in line.

“What that does is control the number of people standing up at any one time, and it doesn’t create as much anxiety and stress,” Harteveldt said.

Delta may be wise to follow Southwest’s lead, but for now, it may have to deal with angrier passengers.

“When you have that unpleasant environment in the gate, people literally bring that anger onto the plane and it increases the risk of people losing their tempers on the aeroplane,” Harteveldt said.

“At Delta, we are continually looking at ways to enhance the boarding process and improve the customer travel experience,” a Delta spokesperson told Business Insider. “Boarding pillars is a great example – after launching this new process last May, we have been actively gathering feedback from customers and employees to refine and enhance the process. Delta continues to invest in tools and technology to bring more organisation to boarding, better communicate with our customers at the gate and achieve the desired customer experience.”

Here’s what Delta passengers have to say about the new system: