There’s probably a social science experiment to be had in one of the most frustrating parts of traveling by air: getting on the plane.
You know the type. They hang around the jetway entrance, just outside the reach of the gate agent, waiting for their “group” to be called. There’s a word for those people, we learn from the Atlanta Journal Constitution today: “gate lice.”
So Delta is testing out a new system that sounds somewhat similar to the long-standing Southwest Airlines method of lining up by pillars. Except, unlike the Southwest method, this one separates people into haves and have-nots.
“We don’t want to be viewed as a commodity,” Delta chief financial officer Paul Jacobson said during a recent investor presentation. Selling different tiers of fares and seats in different cabins “decommoditizes the product and ultimately redefines our focus point” to sell different levels of service instead of just a generic seat on a plane.
That focus is “not only through just the flight but through the boarding process” and other options, “whether you want to sit in first class on this trip by paying a first class upgrade fee, or you want priority boarding because you’ve got some important things in your carry-on and you want to ensure that there’s going to be carry-on space so you pay up for priority boarding,” Jacobson said.
Airlines have basically made flying so uncivilized, that you’ll be more desperate to pay for anything that has the faint aroma of civility. Brilliant, really.
The new queue system has saved 30 to 60 seconds at the gates in Atlanta where Delta is testing the new system.
Delta and other airlines with assigned seating have tried different methods of boarding over the years, with variations of back-to-front, outside-in (also known as WilMA, or window-middle-aisle) or other methods.
For passengers who have been stuck in a line to board that seems to stall interminably, it’s tempting to question the judgment of those who developed the boarding process.
Because the goal of boarding now isn’t just getting on the plane efficiently, it’s making some people feel more special than others.
The company says it will expand its boarding procedures to other airports if the feedback is good.
Related: It can’t be this hard to board a plane (Wall St. Journal)