Delta Early Valet: Carry-on bags board first

No, this is not a case of people with bags boarding first. Nor is it allowing people without bags to board first, something a few airlines have tried recently. Delta is now looking to take carry-on bags from travelers in the boarding area and bring them on board, stowing them in bins before any passengers get on the plane. All in the hope of making the boarding process more efficient and less hectic.

delta-bag-tag.jpgThe “Early Valet” program is rolling out initially to a couple dozen flights and will expand over the summer, mostly targeting routes with a higher percentage of leisure travelers to help smooth that process. Delta employees will collect specially tagged bags in the boarding area and bring them on to the plane. Passengers will get to their seats to find that the bags are already in position.

It all sounds great in theory, though the staffing costs to make something like this work cannot be trivial. Then again, there’s a decent chance this cuts down on oversized carry-on bags making it in to the cabin, given that airline staff will be handling them along the way. And those oversized bags are going to end up as checked; with the focus on leisure travelers that could mean a net revenue increase for Delta as those passengers are hit with checked bag fees (assuming the tagging happens at the check-in counter and not at the gate).

So, yes, this is probably good for everyone. But also not necessarily a completely altruistic operation from the airline. Worth noting that a test version of the program ran late last year so this isn’t brand new, but it was successful enough that the company is expanding it.


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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. One reason to carry on bags is so that they will not get lost or stolen, this would not solve that issue…

  2. US airlines for bag fees backwards; carry-on should have a fee (more expensive for the airline as it needs longer turnarounds, more valuable to customers due unwillingness to separate from bags and faster to meetings upon arrival) while bags in the hold should be free.

    What a disastrous experiment charging for first checked bag has been!

  3. People keep bringing up that the airlines NEED to charge for checked baggage because of the costs associated with it.

    Basic question that I don’t have an answer for, and I’m guessing you can help with –

    How do the airlines get billed for luggage services?

    Obviously if it’s a hub, they’ll have all the costs internalized (staffing, equipment, etc), and will have a good handle on that (we hope).

    But outside those airports, I’m assuming they contract with local airside service vendors… do they typically charge per piece, per flight, per year… ?

    Where I’m going, obviously, is that checked baggage fees are *likely* a straight money-grab, rather than a cost-to-serve argument, right?

    Any predictions of when DL will charge for valet? Or use it as a way of enforcing carry-on limits? Or when the first of the US “Big 3” will begin to charge for carry-on?

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