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Today, Delta announced its newest boarding order. Now imagine for a moment, if you will, that you are new to all of this and try to see where you should board. Good luck…

  • Delta One or Diamond Medallion
  • Delta Premium Select Or First Class
  • Delta Comfort +
  • Delta Sky Priority
  • Main Cabin 1
  • Main Cabin 2
  • Main Cabin 3 
  • Basic Economy.

You see, to most travelers there’s simply: first class, premium economy and economy. Many fail to realize that there is a difference between First Class and Business Class let alone four sections of the economy cabin alone. It’s absolutely fine, it’s not their job to know. Delta’s new boarding order is *in theory* designed to simplify and clear up the boarding process, but even as an elite traveler my head is spinning.

I believe the only way to alleviate the frustrations of frequent travelers who despise misplaced novices in the wrong boarding zones, and also make novices feel like the boarding game isn’t some giant scheme designed to confuse them is to simply stick with the number system – and make every single airline use it.

Every passenger on every airline should get a boarding pass with a BIG GIANT NUMBER on it. Everyone can count to ten, but very few people know the difference between premium select, comfort plus and main cabin.

Now the initial pushback is, “well every airline has a different number of loyalty program tiers and things like that”. I’d rebuke this by saying that each airline can stick their tiers into the number of their choice.

British Airways actually does this already, and I find the boarding process works extremely well in most cases. Zone 1 is for First Class and Gold Members, Zone 2 is business class and Silver Members. If they wanted to, they could stick another group into either of those numbers or the subsequent digits that follow, but from the customer perspective you’re always a 1,2,3,4 or 5. First time travelers can count to five no problem, but they may not know if they’re in World Traveller Plus, or World Traveler and the point is that via numbers, it doesn’t matter.

If every airline settled on a numerical system it would make all travelers happy. Those who travel infrequently would know the drill, regardless of whether they try a  new airline. U.S. travelers would feel comfortable in Europe, European travelers in Asia and so forth. Frequent travelers would also rejoice, knowing the gate area will become less crowded with those who can’t keep up with all the names, or know where to stand.

The best boarding I’ve ever been a part of took place in Tokyo and passengers were placed into five roped off lines. They opened the ropes one by one, in numerical boarding order and there wasn’t a singular confused passenger in sight.

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