Delta, Southwest Revamping Boarding Processes To Keep Flights On Time This Summer

When heading out for a long-awaited summer vacation, most people don’t want to waste valuable time waiting in an airplane’s aisle while other people jam their bags in the crowded overhead bins, or playing a round of musical chairs so a family can sit together on the upcoming flight. In an effort to ensure travelers don’t miss time sunning themselves on the beach, two airlines are revamping their boarding processes. 

The Associated Press reports that Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines are taking two entirely different approaches to expediting the boarding in an effort to reduce delays, customer complaints and extra costs.

For Delta, the company is looking to streamline the way passengers stuff their bags in overhead bins. On Monday the airline rolled out its Early Valet service, which tasks airline employees with preloading carry-on bags, on nearly two dozen flights.

Through the service, travelers will be given the option to have their bags specially tagged, taken from the gate by airline employees and placed in the gate above their assigned seat before the boarding process officially begins.

A spokesperson for Delta says that the service is currently available on flights that have a high number of vacationers departing from Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City and Seattle, with more airports expected to be added later this month.

Tests of the service were conducted last summer in Atlanta and Los Angeles resulting in some boarding time reductions, the spokesperson tells the AP.

On the other side of the spectrum, Southwest – which doesn’t offer assigned seats – is aiming to cut back on the time passengers spend moving back and forth between seats to accommodate traveling families on crowded flights.

Southwest’s current process allow families to board together after the “A” group as long as the children in their party are four years old or younger. Additionally, families can pay extra to board earlier.

However, neither of those systems are foolproof, and flight attendants often have to ask other passengers to move in order to accommodate older children or families that don’t get to the gate on time, the AP reports.

While many travelers are happy to oblige the requests to move seats, the airline is aiming to alleviate that hassle through a recent test that expanded those covered in family boarding to include children up to 6, 8 or 11 years of age.

“We’ve always tried to finesse it,” Teresa Laraba, a senior vice president overseeing customer service at Southwest, says of the tests that were designed to see “if there is a tweak that would improve the overall experience for everyone.”

The airline is currently surveying passengers and expects to make a decision on whether or not a new system is needed later this month.

Airlines try to save time with speedier boarding process [The Associated Press]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.