Business Problem

The airplane boarding process is a critical component of efficient airline operations. The current design of the gate area and boarding process is heavily influenced by the tools and technology available at the time.  In particular, the design is centered on fixed-position workstations (i.e., desktop computers and physical network connections). New tools and technology have removed these previous constraints, so the opportunity exists to rethink the entire process and gate configuration.


Delta is seeking ideas that modernize the design of both the gate area and boarding process by leveraging current and future customer behavior theory, design theory, and technology. The target boarding experience is comfort and effortlessness for customers, but the design must not create operational risk (e.g., unauthorized access to aircraft). Research team members should start from a “blank slate” to design and equip the gate area and jet bridge, but changes to aircraft design and features are not in scope.

Delta is currently looking for an academic research team with multidisciplinary expertise/interest in any of the following areas (or any combination):

  • Architecture
  • Business and management
  • Computing (e.g., Human-Computer Interaction)
  • Design (including Theater and Drama disciplines)
  • Engineering
  • Hospitality & Service (e.g., Services Marketing)
  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Innovation
  • Math & Statistics

Additional Project Information

Timeline: 3 months from signed statement of work / research agreement; Ideal start would be early March

Required Deliverables: Unique customer & employee experience insights; Design of novel gate area layout (e.g., rendering, mock-up, etc.) including boarding process (i.e., customer/employee process & experience in new gate design). You will be asked to present your ideas to Delta senior leadership. Supported ideas will be practically tested in Delta’s operations.

Resources: Access to boarding/operation data; domestic gates (hubs/non-hub); employee & customer data (live interviews); dedicated Delta project lead

Compensation: Research funding & expenses up to $50K; Publication opportunities

Interested parties should submit a proposal (one-page max) highlighting project/research approach (e.g., experiments) and investigator(s) bio and cv. Investigators can be from multiple universities.

Deadline for proposals is 1st March 2018.

Please send proposal to: Willy Barnett at; +1-404-769-0263