Airlines try speedier boarding

DALLAS (AP) – Airlines are trying to save time by speeding up a part of flying that creates delays even before the plane leaves the gate: the boarding process.

This summer travel season, Delta plans to preload carry-on bags above passengers’ seats on some flights. Southwest wants to get families seated together more quickly.

Airlines have tinkered with different boarding systems almost since the days of Orville and Wilbur Wright, who tossed a coin to decide who would fly first aboard their biplane. Plenty of people have offered ideas for improvement, but no perfect method has ever emerged.

Slow boarding creates delays, which mean missed connections, unhappy customers and extra costs.

Delta’s Early Valet service will offer to have airline employees take carry-on bags at the gate and put them in the bins above assigned seats. The airline wants to see if its own workers can load the bins faster than passengers.

The service began Monday on about two dozen flights, and that number is expected to rise steadily during June, Delta spokeswoman Morgan Durrant said.

Early Valet will be offered through August on some departures from Delta’s busiest airports – Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City and Seattle.

It will be available only on flights that typically have a high number of vacationers. Presumably, business travelers know how to board a plane efficiently. Specially tagged bags will be stowed on the plane before boarding begins, Durrant said.