By default a load balancer routes each request independently to the server instance with the smallest load. By comparison, a sticky session binds a user's session to a specific server instance so that all requests coming from the user during the session will be sent to the same server instance.
AWS Elastic Beanstalk uses load balancer-generated HTTP cookies when sticky sessions are enabled for an application. The load balancer uses a special load balancer–generated cookie to track the application instance for each request. When the load balancer receives a request, it first checks to see if this cookie is present in the request. If so, the request is sent to the application instance specified in the cookie. If there is no cookie, the load balancer chooses an application instance based on the existing load balancing algorithm. A cookie is inserted into the response for binding subsequent requests from the same user to that application instance. The policy configuration defines a cookie expiry, which establishes the duration of validity for each cookie.