We're only one month into Delta's Early Valet test program, and the airline already appears to be claiming victory, stating that the program has resulted in reduced boarding times and increased customer satisfaction -- although, would they really admit if it were a failure?
In case you forgot, here's Early Valet in a nutshell: in order to decrease boarding times, gate agents preload the carry-on bags of select passengers, placing them in the overhead bin above the passenger's assigned seat approximately 45 minutes before departure.
The program's currently being tested with select flights departing from Delta's domestic hub airports (JFK, MSP, SEA, and ATL), and according to Delta, targeted flights have seen both a 90-second decrease in boarding time and an 8% increase on customer satisfaction. One customer was even quoted as saying “This program really is one of the best things an airline has done in a very long time," which, admittedly, is a lot like congratulating an arsonist for building you a toolshed.
Right now, Delta's gate agents only preload between six and nine bags per participating flight, so it remains to be seen whether Delta will be able to successfully scale the program up. Additionally, don't count on being able to try out Early Valet yourself just yet: the program currently targets families traveling with small children, customers with disabilities, elderly travelers, and "high value customers." You're probably not one of those.
Still, though, it's nice to think heated arguments with the trombonist player in seat 23F might soon be a thing of the past.