Delta Is Testing A New Way To Board Flights – Using Two Gates At The Same Time For Just One Plane

Delta Air Lines is conducting a test boarding planes using two jet bridges at the same time. This way they can get twice as many passengers onto the aircraft at once, making the boarding process go faster.

If adopted, in the future this could mean a single jet bridge that splits off and then boards passengers through two different doors on the aircraft. For now they are using two gates next to each other to accomplish the feat. Since Cincinnati is a much smaller station for Delta than the hub it used to be, they have extra gate space to allow this kind of test.

in Cincinnati

A Delta spokesperson confirms,

As part of our continuous efforts to improve the customer experience, Delta will conduct a limited test at CVG that evaluates the operational feasibility of leveraging dual jet bridges to more quickly board and deplane customers.

Using two jet bridges to board an aircraft is faster. That’s great for an airline because it helps to turn aircraft faster, and can avoid delays. That means lower costs, and potentially better aircraft utilization. Better reliability numbers have historically been important to Delta’s ability to generate a revenue premium, something they’ve struggled with as travel recovers from the pandemic.

At the same time boarding through a second door can mean more staffing, which also raises costs. And not all aircraft can support this. Airlines have had challenges with two-door boarding on the Airbus A321 due to engine location, though some like Lufthansa still do it.

(HT: @ApplyInLogic)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Hmm…I see trouble ahead:)

    But hope I’m wrong, and it proves successful. Would be great to speed things along.

  2. Delta has plenty of unused gates at CVG so it is easy to test there.

    Dual jetbridges do exist for narrowbody aircraft but they are complicated.

    Boarding large narrowbody aircraft entirely through the L1 door makes for a very long process. Given that no aircraft can safely board thru the middle door like the 757 does, they and others need to be thinking about a solution.

    Will be interesting to see the results of their tests and what they do.

  3. @ Gary — If only they would board the ghastly coach dwellers through one door and the first class passengers through the other. Then, add a steel curtain to block passage between the cabins, and one group would never have to see the other.

  4. This is literally the fourth or fifth different boarding process change that Delta has made since 2018 or 2019. Remember those Southwest-style posts that disappeared during the pandemic? Now, Delta has quietly rolled back the other recent change that saw diamonds board after first-class/Delta One. On every flight for two weeks, diamonds have been called with first and Delta One. The best boarding change that Delta ever did was during the pandemic when it boarded back to front.

  5. Last month I was on a Lufthansa flight from Heathrow to Bergen, Norway with a stop in Frankfurt, Germany. They used the 2 door boarding method. It was awesome and was very smooth. Loved it and it was the first time I had ever experienced that method.

  6. People clearly don’t remember the United attempt with a special gate for rear door that went over the wing. Back I. The early 747 days three bridges were used two on the left side and one on the right

  7. The best is what Southwest does at airports without jet bridges (like BUR)– board/deplane via front and back doors. It’s pretty amazing how quickly people can get on and off. (Of course, this is probably helped by WN’s open seating- boarding through two doors with seat assignments is going to slow things down.)

  8. This is common in other countries for widebodies, though rarely seen in the US (by me, anyway). Never seen it for a narrowbody, but if they can get the jet bridge there, makes sense to use them.

  9. Albany – KALB – used to have dual jet bridges and they were used by Southwest. They were retired in 2019…

  10. This has always been a big complaint of mine, especially when flying 757 or 767 with Delta. They never use the forward boarding door, which means domestic first or Delta One business-class passengers don’t get off the plane first. That’s a big deal on an international arrival.

  11. You don’t need an experiment to know that boarding and disembarking from two doors is faster than using one. The problem with this “experiment” is few, if any, airports other than CVG have the luxury of being able to use two gates for one flight.

  12. Frankly in Europe I find easyJet and Ryanair using the both stairs for their A320s or 737s works great. The foot bridge, where used (rarely for Ryanair; sometimes for easyjet) they just send you down to eh ground level and then up the stairs again)

  13. There is no question that multiple door boarding speeds things up. I’m interested in seeing the results as well. AS does this the old-fashioned way in airports that are always sunny. Like Burbank. Where there are no jet bridges, and you walk on the tarmac and either board at the front or back.

  14. I remember using both front and rear doors on several narrow-body flights in Europe and Africa (e.g, Adria Air in Budapest, Ethiopian Air in Kilimanjaro), and it seemed very efficient. Alas, we needed to board from stairs on the tarmac.

    I also seem to remember USAir experimenting with “pyramid boarding”, where window seats boarded first, followed by middle seats and then aisle seats. This didn’t last long. I suspect that separating families blew it up, as well as the inevitable lack of availability of overhead storage for aisle seat passengers.

    I hope Delta solves the problem using jet bridges. It seems intuitive that boarding from back to front (or from the middle to the ends if two bridges were used) would be more efficient than the current mode of front to back (although that would possibly necessitate the sacred PDB’s being served to first class passengers at the gate – as they would optimally end up boarding last).

    And, I suspect the payoffs for Delta would be large. Shaving 10 minutes each from the embarkation and deplaning processes might optimally allow an extra flight per aircraft per day – at least on short leg routes.

  15. In the past 2 jet bridges were used on B747 and DC!0 (with fewer “carry-on” bags). Narrow body aircrafts were turned in 30 minutes and wide body aircrafts in 45 minutes. Today a narrow body aircraft can take up to 30 minutes just to board!

  16. Or at the start of the Jet Age when United pioneered using two jetways to board its new DC-8s in San Francisco.

    TWA followed suit with its 707s at JFK.

    Speaking of which, Amsterdam Schiphol has (had?) the overwing bridges for wide-body loading. JFK used to….

  17. I’ve seen this in Europe several times even with smaller aircraft like 737’s.. Boarding took less than 15 minutes.

  18. @ Gene

    Actually the door between F and Y should be transparent. This will allow the lessor mortals to see the abject luxury accorded us. The five course meals, the extraordinary legroom, the deferential passenger attendants awaiting our bidding. A wonderful way to fly.

  19. How are they getting a jet bridge to a door behind the wing? Is the plane parking parallel to the concourse? Or is the second jet bridge just really, really long?

    Two jet bridges is normal on aircraft where 1L and 2L are both forward of the wing, but not sure how one connects a jet bridge to a door aft of the wing.

    Of course, this is easy enough to do with stairs from the ramp, but stairs aren’t so fun in rain, extreme cold, etc.

  20. Glad to see a US airline trying to improve the ghastly boarding and deplaning experience in the USA (and lower costs).

    Of course it is Delta.

  21. In 1966 I was a gate agent for TWA. Except for 727’s and DC9″s TWA used 2 jetways front and rear for most all flights. This new idea of Delta was actually used 56 years ago. Back to the Future.

  22. Nothing New – Just look at ALB airport Southwest gates 1&2
    use 2 bridges one above the wing leading to back of plane and the other from the front

  23. We usually boarded this way for long haul flights from Thailand,
    It was common practice until the guy jumped out of the plane with a lot of money a few decades ago. Also, all airports did not have jet bridges. Passengers walked down stairs at the front and rear of the aircraft.
    Safe Travels!

  24. Must be that there is no one in DL management that worked at airlines before 1990. This has been tried and discontinued at airlines worldwide with WN probably having the most “test” Jetways (DAL, ALB and AUS come to mind. There may have been others in the test.) The rear over-the-wing Jetway took entirely too much time to position and retract.

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