Delta, Southwest Try New Ways to Board Planes Faster (Maybe)

Planes will be packed this summer and getting all those people into their seats can take a while. Airlines hate these boarding slogs because they can lead to late departures which are then published by the Department of Transportation for all to see.

LISTEN: Travel expert Rick Seaney is stuck in the slog.

Delta, Southwest Boarding Experiments

So they never stop trying ‘faster boarding experiments’. Here are the latest from Delta and Southwest.

Southwest: Families

As you probably know, Southwest doesn’t have assigned seats, but they do try to accommodate families by allowing those with kids age 4 and under to board after the A boarding group. According to Consumerist, they are currently testing this to include older kids.

Another way to board ahead of the herd on Southwest is with Early Bird Check-in which at $12.50 per person is one fee that might be worth paying.

Delta: Bags

Delta is currently experimenting with something called Early Valet service for passengers with carry-ons only. Instead of you lugging the bag and shoving it into an overhead bin, a customer service rep does this for you before boarding starts (it’s free and they don’t accept tips).

However, it’s only offered on a very few flights; if you’ve experienced it, let us know how it worked. We have some questions about Early Valet and asked Delta to respond; we’ll update when we hear from them.

  1. How much faster is the boarding process when employees stow carry-ons?
  2. How early must passengers with carry-ons be at the gate area to take advantage of the service? We know Delta says passengers must be at the gate 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time but is that enough?
  3. How many customer service employees per plane will stow these carry-ons?
  4. We know that many flight attendants have suffered injuries by continually lifting carry-ons into overhead bins. Is this a concern for customer service employees?
  5. Are there additional costs to having employees stow bags and if so, will airfare prices rise to cover these costs?

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Updated: June 10, 2015