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Zone boarding, an aviation standard for decades, will soon be a thing of the past for Delta customers as the airline makes a global shift to boarding by branded fare purchased. This is the latest evolution in Delta’s multi-year work to bring consistency, simplicity and clarity to the gate and boarding experience, efforts that have driven all-time high customer experience scores. SkyMiles Medallion Members and eligible Delta SkyMiles American Express Credit Card Members will continue to receive priority boarding.

Branded Boarding Mobile Shopping
The boarding order change – coming to all Delta-operated flights globally starting Jan. 23 – will be accompanied by new color accents distinguishing Delta’s fare products (Basic Economy, Main Cabin, Delta Comfort+, Delta Premium Select/First Class and Delta One), each of which, in addition to Sky Priority, will have a specific, complementary color – from booking through boarding. The colors are inspired by Delta’s primary brand palette and the Passport Plum shade of purple introduced with the global airline’s 2018 Zac Posen-designed uniforms.

Branded boarding builds on Delta’s latest boarding enhancement, the addition of zone 4 earlier this year, specifically for Basic Economy customers. 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.

“Every customer values consistency and a sense of knowing what to expect when they’re traveling,” said Tim Mapes, Delta’s Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer. “We have been listening to our customers about the stress they often feel at the gate before boarding, and implementing small changes for years. This latest enhancement further refines how Delta’s process works and is designed to better link the Delta product they purchased to differentiated experiences throughout their journey.”

What this means for customers

Boarding zones for Delta-operated flights worldwide will be renamed to reflect the branded fare purchased, while still prioritizing customer loyalty. As a result, Delta will increase the number of boarding groups to encourage fewer customers to line up in the gate area at any one time. Here’s the boarding order launching Jan. 23:

Learn more about boarding as a Medallion Member here.

To make sure communication is clear and consistent, the new boarding order name will be featured:

  • In the online shopping experience
  • On boarding passes and on the Today screen of the Fly Delta app
  • On Jetway screens and boarding signage at the gate

While new colors associated with each branded fare will be visible on boarding screens and signs at the gate starting on Jan. 23, they will be visible to only to a small number of customers in the digital shopping experience to start. A gradual roll-out to all customers on and the Fly Delta app in accordance with best practices for large digital changes will allow Delta to gather customer feedback for continuous improvements until the rollout is complete in 2019.

Delta’s journey to improve the customer experience

Branded Boarding
Delta continues to put boarding under the microscope, looking at new ways to organize and test concepts live with customers – such as the use of digital screens instead of static boarding signage, like pillars. To help keep customers informed, the airline has also been a leader in adding larger information display screens above the door to Jetways and pushing boarding notifications from the Fly Delta app.

“Customers worldwide tell us they want to be recognized and want more control of their time,” Mapes continued. “We’ve been implementing solutions to make air travel something to look forward to, and we’re committed to demonstrating the greatest respect for customer time.”

Over the past several years, Delta has led the industry on a number of customer solutions like RFID baggage handlingautomatic check-in and bag tracking via the Fly Delta mobile app, a cross-industry alliance that will empower customers with seamless in-cabin connectivity experience, more efficient and high-tech automated screening lanes, and a groundbreaking app that helps Delta pilots avoid turbulence for a more comfortable flight. Delta was named one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies Worldwide in 2018, earning the No. 6 spot among travel companies. This December, Delta launched the first biometric terminal in the U.S. at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Delta is also involved in more than $12 billion of airport infrastructure projects over the next several years. These include once-in-a-generation projects like an entirely new terminal complex at New York- LaGuardia; entirely new terminal structures at Salt Lake City; extensive renovations and connectivity at LAX’s Terminals 2 and 3; new international arrivals facilities in Seattle and continued terminal renovations and gate-area expansions in Atlanta.


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