How Delta aims to make boarding more bearable

If you've ever been frustrated with the airline boarding process when taking a flight, you've probably wondered if there's a better way.

Full flights and checked baggage fees that drive passengers to bring more carry-on bags exacerbate boarding tensions.

Delta Air Lines is trying out a new system at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. It's balancing an effort to board passengers more quickly with the company's push to give privileged status to the highest-spending customers.

At five gates on Concourse B, Delta passengers line up in four parallel lanes at marked pillars. They will continue to board by zone.

“It’s easing that crowd flow,” said Delta spokeswoman Ashton Morrow, who said boarding time is reduced by 30 to 60 seconds with the new system — a small-sounding but significant gain in an operation the size of Delta’s. At the same time, she added, “loyalty is still sort of how we’ve built our process. That’s definitely not changing.”

The lanes are intended to instill some order in the waiting area and deter people from spilling into the busy walkway, the airline says.

They could also help reduce the number of “gate lice” — a frequent flier nickname for people who crowd near the jetway door long before their group is called, contributing to confusion and stress as those in earlier boarding groups try to find the line.

The lines also create a separate area for premium customers to line up separately, and do the same for passengers who need special assistance, according to Delta.

Read more on plans to expand the new boarding process to more gates and airports, how Delta's new system compares to Southwest Airlines boarding and Delta's push to prioritize customers who spend the most -- Get the full story on