Branded Boarding Order By Delta Air Lines: Simplified or Complicated?

The art of figuring out the most efficient process for boarding passengers aboard an airplane has occurred almost as long as the time when commercial aviation was first launched. Boarding dozens — or even hundreds — of passengers aboard a narrow metal tube with wings is no easy task; and that is regardless of the boarding process which is implemented. As of the year 2019, the process still has yet to be effective…

Branded Boarding Order By Delta Air Lines: Simplified or Complicated?

…until now, as Delta Air Lines recently revealed its new Branded Boarding Order system while simultaneously declaring that boarding passengers by zone “will soon be a thing of the past” by essentially adding two more of the obsolete “zones” to the boarding process — and coding those obsolete zones by color based on the official color palette used for the logos and uniforms of Delta Air Lines.

branded boarding order

Click on the graphic for an enlarged view. Source: Delta News Hub.

The new Branded Boarding Order process becomes effective as of Wednesday, January 23, 2019.

“Branded boarding builds on Delta’s latest boarding enhancement, the addition of zone 4 earlier this year, specifically for Basic Economy customers”, according to this article written by Kathryn Steele for Delta News Hub. “This change resulted in customer satisfaction scores improving dramatically for the reduced number of customers in zone 3, and improving in every other zone, including by double digits for the Main Cabin zones. Basic Economy customers are notified during the shopping experience that their carry-on bag may need to be checked at the gate, free of charge, which helps manage expectations for checking bags at the gate. This practice will continue with the introduction of Delta’s new branded boarding order.”

One Reason I Do Not Like the Branded Pillar Boarding Process

Originally primarily the domain of low-cost carriers such as Southwest Airlines and ValuJet Airlines, what is known as the branded pillar boarding process has now also been adopted by legacy carriers such as United Airlines and Delta Air Lines.

United Airlines

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

The branded pillar boarding process incorporates pillars which are branded with the groups or zones to which passengers have been assigned in order to expedite the boarding process in general — and if you listen to carriers such as Delta Air Lines, the process has been a proven success:

“The latest upgrade to the boarding process features branded pillars to create four parallel lanes, keeping customers out of the walkway and providing a separate queuing area for Premium customers and those needing special assistance”, according to this article written by Ashton Kang for Delta News Hub. “The airline plans to roll out this interim solution to additional airports if customer feedback continues to be positive.”

United Airlines

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

One reason why I do not like the branded pillar boarding process is because once passengers start queuing long before their groups or zones are called, other fellow passengers tend to act like lemmings and follow suit — and long lines suddenly form. This means that if you want your chance at having space available for your belongings in the overhead storage bin above or near your assigned seat by the time you board the aircraft, you stand a better chance by standing in line early before the queue grows too long — which could possibly mean significantly less time relaxing either seated or in an airport lounge.

Although the older boarding process may not have been perfect, I usually was able to remain seated until my group or zone was called; and I was able to be one of the first to board the airplane within my group or zone — ensuring that I have space available in the overhead storage bin above or near my seat virtually every time.


branded pillars boarding gate Delta Air Lines

Photograph ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

So let me get this straight…the process of boarding passengers of Delta Air Lines is being simplified by adding two more zones which are coded by a palette of colors?

Delta Air Lines is famous for changing the definition of the word enhancement — to the point when many customers hear that word, they perceive negative connotations rather than positive ones. Is the airline attempting to do the same with the word simplified?

I will leave the predictions of who wins and who loses as a result of the new Branded Boarding Order process to René de Lambert of Renés Points; but as with René, this new Branded Boarding Order process reminds me of the useless advisory system which was coded by color and introduced to the public by the Department of Homeland Security of the United States on Tuesday, March 12, 2002…

advisory system

Source: Department of Homeland Security of the United States.

…and was quietly replaced by the National Terrorism Advisory System effective as of Wednesday, April 20, 2011.

How much do you want to bet that this new “simplified” process will suffer from a similar fate — especially because it will ultimately not have solved the ages-old problem of efficiently boarding passengers aboard an airplane?

All photographs ©2016 and ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

8 thoughts on “Branded Boarding Order By Delta Air Lines: Simplified or Complicated?”

  1. Enjoy FIne Food says:

    My first reaction upon seeing the branded pillars was probably much like yours. Then I watched the process. As usual, the cockroaches crept to the front, but they couldn’t block all the lanes. They were stymied. They obviously weren’t Sky Priority, or even Zone 1 or Zone 2. What to do!?!?! The SP or Z1 or Z2 people who were anxious to board waved boarding passes, shoving (figuratively) the cockroaches aside. Eventually there was a line of six-legged creatures queued up at the Zone 3 pillar — anxiously trying to figure out how they could come up with a babe-in-arms to pre-board next time. When I was ready to board, I had a clear SP lane — no “excuse me, excuse me, excuse me” to clear a path to the gate.
    In today’s noisy, crowded airport, no one can hear the garbled boarding calls over the cheap airport speakers, even if they want to — and I suspect cockroaches don’t have ears. The pillars are a perfect alternative.

  2. Tempting Traveler says:

    I was the first person in line for the premium passenger and on count had 17 people board ahead of me including what appeared to be healthy businessmen and women while the line behind me was probably 30 to 40 people deep on a Monday morning. Clearly part of the process if flawed! I am all for active military (YAY) boarding first and foremost and even people in wheelchairs of course, but the “people needing extra time or assistance” has turned into a free for all for everyone who is perfectly fine boarding without question to gain optimal overhead space. In the situation above, where I was the first in line in the first class/DM line, I had only a backpack and sat in a bulkhead and had no overhead space because of two men needing “extra time and assistance” boarding. This becoming a normal situation. I encountered this in Tampa where perfectly healthy men boarded during the session mentioned above and had no issue going down the jet bridge at a nice clip. It is being abused. Move the “people needing extra time and assistance” to the end of the boarding process as well as people with children under the age of 2. Everyone can be seated comfortably. I don’t like the herding method of Southwest that Delta has adopted but it does seem to work reasonably well. As a disclaimer I am a long time DM so I get to board early regardless. In an unrelated topic, they also need to get their arms around carryon bag restrictions. Make the rule and stick with it. I have a crossbody 8 x 8 purse and a backpack and do not have overhead and the two men each had two full size suitcases. I have had the gate agent make me put my crossbody in my backpack on the rare occasion when I have had a suitcase, Small personal items are now rollerboards. Sorry…I will step back now.

  3. Jeff Pitsch says:

    I completely disagree with this article. The pillar approach is a huge improvement over the chaos that was before. A huge crowd of people gathered around the gate and you not knowing are the people in front of me in line to get on or are they trying to be the first to get on when their zone is called. It was almost complete chaos. Also, I don’t believe this is to solve the boarding efficiently problem but more of a clear the gate so those who can get onboard are allowed to get on board. The side effect is a bit more efficiency when actually on the plane itself.

  4. Donald Shaw says:

    Bottom line is that Southwest has the most orderly boarding process. Just assign a boarding number when they check in. The boarding numbers could be assigned before the “check in” process begins.

  5. FacsRfriendly says:

    An absolute crock. I’m better than you so I get to sit first. Get people on and off the plane. Quit appealing to some wannabes since of entitlement.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Umm…what, FacsRfriendly?!?

    2. Tempting Traveler says:

      Clearly from someone who spends no time on flights…I fly 140-150 segments a year and over 150,000 miles a year and no, no discount because Delta knows when business travelers travel… so yes, maybe I am entitled to get on and get comfortable before people who spend $200 on their discount ticket to Disney World. First class should board first, status should board first…maybe you should learn your “Facs”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.