Delta CEO Says Carrier Won’t Copy United’s New Boarding Process

by Anthony Losanno
Ed Bastian

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Delta Air Lines’ CEO, Ed Bastian, recently commented on United Airlines’ new boarding process. In the interview, Bastian threw some shade United’s way regarding its new boarding process, which is said to shave up to two minutes off each flight.

On October 26th, United shifted to boarding using the acronym WILMA, which stands for window, middle, aisle. The acronym doesn’t make much sense to me, but call it whatever you want if it speeds up boarding. This will not change the preboarding order or the group numbers for those with elite status or credit card benefits. Here is the new order (with changes highlighted):

  • Customers with disabilities or needing extra time down the jetway
  • Unaccompanied minors
  • Active duty military members
  • Global Services
  • Families traveling with children under the age of two
  • Premier 1K
  • Group 1: United Polaris Business, United First, United Business, Premier Platinum, Premier Gold, Star Alliance Gold
  • Group 2: Premier Silver, Star Alliance Silver, Chase United cardholders, passengers who paid for Premier Access
  • Group 3: Window seats, exit row seats, non-rev passengers
  • Group 4: Middle seats (this used to be middle and aisle seats)
  • Group 5: Aisle seats (this used to be Basic Economy passengers)
  • Group 6: Basic Economy passengers (this used to be Group 5) 

The new boarding order has only been in effect for a few weeks, so it’s too early to tell the impact yet.

Fox Business quoted Bastian as saying:

We have found that actually just boarding people and getting people moving through the plane is the fastest. Every time you add another feature, it gets more complicated. [However, If United does] crack that nut better, we’ll certainly copy them.”

United Next

I still marvel at the differences between boarding a United flight and one on Delta. People patiently wait to board a Delta flight, while a United one is an all-out brawl to get on the plane with people virtually stampeding the plane.

Anthony’s Take: I’m fortunate to hold elite status and fly in premium cabins. I don’t see the majority of boarding, but hope that United’s new system works for the carrier. Anecdotally, it seems like Delta has it down as what I have witnessed has been largely pleasant.

(Image Credits: Delta Air Lines and United Airlines.)

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livelife November 13, 2023 - 4:12 pm

He didn’t said he Wont copy, if you check his last statement on air, he said He might copy if its a success

Sam kim November 13, 2023 - 7:25 pm

I’m not sure I agree on this one. I’ve certainly seen the delta cluster F particularly at lax and jfk. Every bit as bad as ua at ewr or sfo. But I don’t know the numbers by aircraft.

Generally, my observation is that reducing gate crowding is down to fewer boarding groups and clearer signage in the boarding area. Regardless of implementing window middle isle boarding, having better signs to compensate for inevitably poor audio cues from PA ala WN would help. And if you don’t want to pay staff to change signs, work with airports to implement something digital on the gate LCD screens.


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