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Delta Tests Do-It-Yourself Boarding

Delta is the latest airline to test self-boarding. Joining more than a dozen other carriers, which are mostly international, Delta has installed experimental self-boarding gates at Atlanta and Las Vegas.

The idea is to cut costs by reducing the number of airline staff members required in boarding areas. The cost reductions seem significant enough that the Las Vegas airport has installed self-boarding capability throughout its newly opened terminal three expansion.

Although Delta is the only airline using the Las Vegas system so far, chances are pretty good that others will pick up on the idea.

As with so many cost-reduction measures, self-boarding has a downside. Chief among these: An airline loses what little control it usually exerts over the boarding process. Practices such as allowing family groups and exalted frequent flyers to board early, or boarding by zone, will probably be impossible to enforce—not that airlines are doing a great job with these existing systems to begin with. You can expect more pushing and shoving with self-boarding wherever you encounter it.

USA Today reports that most airlines using self-boarding are in Asia and Europe, and that Lufthansa is leading the way. Still, as we’ve often noted, most airlines will grasp at any system that lowers their costs. And if it’s a bad idea for travelers, the message is: Get used to it.

What do you think about self-boarding?

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