New boarding procedure: Delta sends a strong message

Earlier this week, when talking about airline alliances, it was said that one of their benefits to the customer was the reciprocity of loyalty programs. The implementation of Delta’s new boarding procedure shows us that reciprocity does not mean equality.

What is meant by reciprocity in the implementation of loyalty programs? That a passenger who is a member of the frequent flyer program of one airline in the alliance will be granted benefits when flying on another airline in the alliance. These benefits can be multiple (priority check-in counters, priority queues, access to lounges, etc.) and depend of course on the passenger’s status within the loyalty program.

Does this mean symmetrical recognition of statuses (the person with the lowest status in one is granted the benefits of the lowest status in the other and so on for all levels of status)? That’s what people often think…well, no. This is at the discretion of the airlines.

Let’s take the example of boarding. At Air France, Sky Priority passengers (traveling in La Première, Business cabins and Platinum or Gold Flying Blue status or equivalent with partners) are invited to board first, with no order of priority among them.

Delta has always put its most loyal (Diamond) passengers first, along with its Business passengers, ahead of its lower-level members and the highest status partners. Then came the “lower” statuses of Delta and partners. And then the rest of the passengers.

Since January 23rd the procedure and the management of priorities has totally changed as shown in the following diagram.

From now on, “status” passengers from partner frequent flyer programs will board all together and no longer in two separate groups but, above all, they will be relegated to the end of the priority boarding process. They board just before the non-status economy class passengers and after the premium economy class passengers.

The signal sent by Delta is clear: status is good, but valuing what passengers spend at Delta is better. In other words:

-Travel class takes precedence over status (except for diamonds).

– Delta’s status prevails over the status of other airlines.

Discriminatory? Contrary to an (implicit) principle of equality of statuses?

We tend to think that it is a fair deal to favor one’s members as well as those who have paid the most expensive fares. The others remain “priority” but are just a little less so. In the same way that Air France KLM only grants Platinum Ultimate status for flights on Air France or KLM and not on partners, this is a rather simple way to enhance the value of its own members while showing “forward class” passengers that they are getting value for money.

It would even be a good idea for Flying Blue to follow suit.

Photo : Delta Boarding by Sharkshock via Shutterstock

Bertrand Duperrin
Bertrand Duperrin
Compulsive traveler, present in the French #avgeek community since the late 2000s and passionate about (long) travel since his youth, Bertrand Duperrin co-founded Travel Guys with Olivier Delestre in March 2015.

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