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Now Boarding: Delta Experiments With Pre-Loading Carry-ons

Delta Air Lines is experimenting with pre-loading carry-on bags before passengers in an effort to board planes more quickly.
Image: Delta Airlines planes sit at a terminal.
Delta Airlines planes sit at Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy Airport July 22, 2014 in New York City.Eric Thayer / Getty Images file

Airlines seem to be forever tinkering with the boarding process in an effort to get passengers onto planes quickly.

Now Delta Air Lines is trying something new: pre-loading carry-on bags before passengers.

In a complimentary program the airline is calling “Early Valet,” agents will ask customers seated in the gate area if they’d like to participate, Delta spokesman Morgan Durrant told NBC.

“Their bag will be specially tagged, similar to what you’d see at a hotel for room delivery,” said Durrant, “and then taken down onto the aircraft before boarding and placed above a customer’s seat based on their seat assignment.”

The program began June 1 and will be offered on select departures at airports in Atlanta, Detroit, Seattle, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Salt Lake City and New York (JFK and LaGuardia).

The tentative end date is August 31.

Related: Carry On: How to Pack Like a Pro

Durrant said the program was tested last summer at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and at Los Angeles International Airport and showed some time savings in the boarding process.

David Parker Brown of, wonders if Delta’s carry-ons-first test is “making a complex process, more complex, especially for non-frequent fliers.”

While no airline has come up with a “magic solution,” to the boarding process problem, Raymond Kollau, of, said some passengers may be hesitant to hand over their hand luggage “because it contains valuable belongings which they may not want to leave unattended.”

And, noting that it was the airlines’ “one-two punch of cramming more seats into aircraft and charging for checked baggage that has resulted in less room to accommodate everyone’s carry-on,” in the first place, Mary Kirby, of Runway Girl Network, suggests the Delta might “be better off dedicating additional resources at check-in to ensure passengers are not flouting the carry-on restrictions.”

Delta isn’t the only carrier trying a new boarding process this summer.

According to the Associated Press, Southwest Airlines is testing a program that will offer early boarding (after group "A") to families with children up to age 11, although the carrier’s current policy only offers that perk to families with children up to age 4.