Delta adds categories and color in boarding revamp

December 31, 2018

Passengers already confused about boarding procedures in the US are about to grapple with a color-coded process at Delta Air Lines that “simplifies” boarding but adds two more categories.

Due to start globally from January 23, the airline will discard the tradition of boarding by zones in favor of a process that boards according to the “branded” fare purchased.

Most airlines do this to some extent: travelers in the cheap seats are asked to hang back while passengers in business class and those with premium status are invited to board first.

But Delta has taken this a new a level with eight color-coded categories it argues will “encourage fewer customers to line up in the gate area at any one time”.

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The carrier previously had six categories with premium and Sky Priority customers boarding first followed by four zones.

Under the new system, Delta One customers get to board first followed by Delta Premium Select or first class ticket holders and then those with Delta Comfort + fares.

This is followed by Sky Priority Platinum and Gold Medallion members, those with Sky Elite Plus status and members of other eligible loyalty programs who haven’t bought pricier tickets.

Then come three Main Cabin categories followed by those that have opted for the airline’s basic economy cheap tickets.

Delta colour and boarding
Out with the old and in with the New: Delta’s color-coded boarding system. Graphic: Delta.

The airline says each of the categories will have a specific color attached to them “inspired by Delta’s primary brand palette” and the passport Plum shade used for its uniforms.

The colors will be used in its online shopping (although only to some initially), on boarding passes and in the airline’s app as well as on Jetway screens and gate boarding signs.

According to Delta,  the branded boarding concept emerged from its decision to add zone 4 in early 2018 for basic economy customers.

The change produced dramatically improved customer satisfaction scores in zone 3 and improvements in every other zone, including by double digits for the main cabin zones.

Every customer values consistency and a sense of knowing what to expect when they’re traveling,” Delta senior vice president and chief marketing officer Tim Mapes said in the airline’s announcement.

“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 and is designed to better link the Delta product they purchased to differentiated experiences throughout their journey.”

The airline says it will continue to notify Basic Economy passengers that their carry-on bag may need to be checked free of charge at the gate.

Delta has been investing in a number of technologies to help smooth the customer journey including RFID baggage handling, automatic check-in and bag tracking via its mobile app and biometric terminals.