Delta Air Lines introduces changes to boarding process

While it may be a minor switch to some, Delta Air Lines introduced a change to its boarding process to make travel more efficient for customers.

If you are a frequent Delta Air Lines customer, you should be prepared for a major change. The airline is shifting its boarding process, replacing groups with numbers. This new step in efficiency started on May 1 and is another attempt to improve the total air travel experience for customers.

In a statement to CBS MoneyWatch, Delta Air Lines described the move as a “simple change,” that will “provide customers more clarity into the boarding sequence and make the boarding process more intuitive – especially for infrequent travelers and/or customers who might face a language barrier at a gate.”

The shift started on Wednesday with Delta Air Lines moved to this change as an effort to speed up the process of getting travelers on the plane and into their seats. Instead of getting on the flight in groups, passengers are now put in specific numerical zones to point out when they will board. This isn’t a major innovation, as it is a typical move used by other airlines in their boarding processes.

“They’re not changing who boards when or the sequence,” said Clarkson University professor John Milne to CBS Money Watch. “All they are changed is the names of what passenger group boards next.”

While this may seem like a superficial change, it is the latest in a continuing trend of airlines making changes to how they do business and serve customers. Bob Jordan, CEO of Southwest Airlines, recently talked about “new initiatives” that many predict will change many components of the air carrier.

Early thoughts are that the company is considering getting rid of its “first come, first serve” practice for seating. Southwest boards customers in groups, but does not assign seats, allowing passengers to sit where they’d like. Customers can pay extra to board earlier, thus giving themselves more options to find a seat they like.

JetBlue is making another type of change, introducing peak pricing for checked bags. Peak pricing is a practice popular in ride-share services in which fares are higher based on demand. Introducing this idea of checking a bag will certainly have an impact on travel and it will be interesting to see how customers respond.

There are a lot of attempts at “innovation” happening in the airline business as companies look to stand out while strengthening the bottom line. Customer response will be key in determining which remain and which go the way of the suggestion box.