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.

One Reason I Do Not Like the Branded Pillar Boarding Process

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.

There is no need to post in the Comments section below that an obvious way to bypass this issue is to ensure that you are assigned a seat in the premium class cabin so that you board in the first group or zone — I know that…

…but with the newer boarding process, I have seen the queues grow long enough to spill out into the walkways and other open areas, which blocks traffic and causes crowding; and generally negates the resolution to the problem which sometimes plagued the older boarding process. The queues can even at times block access to the gate agents at the desk.

branded pillars boarding gate Delta Air Lines

Photograph ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

I cannot say for sure; but at some gates, it seems to me that to create more room for the queues, some chairs were removed. Many gates typically did not have enough seats for all of the passengers in the boarding area as it was prior to the implementation of the branded pillar boarding process. If this is indeed true, then add this as a second reason as to why I do not like the branded pillar boarding process.

I am still not even sure whether or not a special lane for passengers who have earned elite level status serves a purpose significant enough to result in a more efficient boarding process.

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.

What do you believe would be the best solution for efficiently boarding passengers aboard an airplane?

All photographs ©2016 and ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

10 thoughts on “One Reason I Do Not Like the Branded Pillar Boarding Process”

  1. René says:

    You should at least use the real Delta name for this. EPQS that is “Enhanced Pillar Queuing System” because we all like to be enhanced! Oh and btw they are testing a C+ before Sky Boarding… that will be fun!

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Thank you, René. I just simply used the name Delta Air Lines used in the article to which I linked…

  2. Roy says:

    Get lost Rene! You’ve once again proven why nobody likes you…

  3. Luke Vader says:

    The easiest way to eliminate long queues is to assign each passenger an individual number/rank… so if there are 160 seats on the plane, boarding passes get stamped 1 thru 200. Airlines would assign 1-8, 11-18, etc. in advance, allowing two unassigned numbers (9-10, 19-20, etc.) for last-minute/standby passengers who need to be inserted in the lineup. Then they can board passengers 1-10, 11-20, etc. and finally passengers 191-200 (i.e. Basic Economy). Anyone who wants to lurk/stand in the boarding area would get a minimal advantage by crowding the boarding pillars.

  4. DaninMCI says:

    Complain if you want but when used properly the United or Delta pillar systems work way better than the meaningless pillar that AA uses in the boarding line that A) makes you realize that elite status on AA is worth little as you line up with credit card holders B) Confuses non-elite Group 9 flyers that crowd the gate and C) Gives you something else to walk around at the tiny gate areas as you strain to hear the gate agents call out groups over a bad PA system in a noisy airport.

    I do see your point about lining up early. It could feed on itself as well but then again the early bird gets the worm or overhead space for that group.

  5. Sandy says:

    Not everyone has or can afford lounge access to be able to relax. Many people at gates tend to take up multiple seats so they have space around them by placing lugggage on seats etc., which makes it hard to even find seating sometimes. Don’t even get me started on charging spot hogging by people with 2+ devices. If your only option is to stand, my thought is that it doesn’t matter if I’m doing it in the middle of the terminal, also blocking traffic, or doing it in line. If given the choice, I might as well get some benefit out of where I’m forced to stand by having nice luggage storage space on the plane.

  6. Kathryn Creedy says:

    The boarding scrum at most airlines is one of the reasons I fly Southwest!

  7. Susan says:

    I’d rather be sitting till my zone is called, but what drives me to edge closer is the need to hear what’s being announced. Often the announcements have low volume or the speaker has poor diction. The crowd noise is made worse when we begin asking each other “What zone was called?”
    I’ve seen a few gates where the information board posts the zone being boarded. It’s helpful, but dependent on the gate agent keeping it current.

  8. ATLJC says:

    Wouldn’t it make more sense to have one divided queue like Southwest does that has video monitors indicating boarding zones? Right side could start with Pre-boarders, with the left lined up with Premium. After preboards get on, Sky could start lining up on the right side while Premium boards on left. Then zone one on the right, zone two on left, etc.. Say what you like about the Southwest boarding process, but it is one of the most efficient ways to get people onto the plane without a lot of congestion at the gate.

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