Airlines love to make the boarding process distinctly theirs by doing things their own way, so having a clear picture of the boarding procedures of every airline you fly can be a bit of a challenge.
Delta Air Lines has always been a little bit different. You can even see it in their name, where they use two words instead of the single word “Airlines” that pretty much everyone else uses.
When it comes to boarding, they do things a little differently too. Their groups may have names or numbers, depending on where in the process they fall.
They use terms like Sky Priority and Medallion throughout boarding. But don’t worry — once you understand what they are talking about, it’s really not that hard.
Understanding Delta’s boarding procedures won’t be as tough as you might think. We know the terms, we understand the procedures, and we’re going to make sure that you do too.
Come along with us as we look at the details of the Delta Air Lines boarding process, and you’ll be ready to go and comfortably board your flight the next time you fly with them.
Table of contents
Table of Contents
Delta Air Lines Boarding Zones
It seems that Delta Air Lines couldn’t quite decide how they wanted to organize their aircraft boarding procedures. Or perhaps they just wanted to use some fancy words to make their higher tier customers feel more special.
Either way, they ended up with a mix of 8 numbered and named boarding groups, along with pre-boarding for certain customers and early boarding for others. Confusing, right?
We can only assume this leads to some cranky passengers who have boarding zone 1, but see 6 different groups of people get on the plane ahead of them.
Here are the details of who is eligible to board the plane in each of the groups that Delta uses, so you’ll know what to expect. You’ll never be that cranky passenger wondering why you aren’t on board yet!
- Customers needing assistance or additional time to board, including families with car seats or strollers
- Active duty U.S. military personnel with ID
- Delta One customers
- Diamond Medallion members
First Class or Delta Premium Select
- First class customers
- Delta Premium Select customers
- Diamond Medallion® Members (if aircraft does not have a Delta One cabin)
- Passengers traveling with car seats or strollers
- Delta Comfort+ customers
- Platinum Medallion Members
- Gold Medallion Members
- Flying Blue Platinum and Gold members
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Gold members
- Virgin Australia Platinum and Gold members
- GOL Smiles Diamond members
- SkyTeam Elite Plus members
Main Cabin 1
- Silver Medallion Members
- Delta Corporate travelers
- Priority Boarding Trip Extra customers
- Gold, Platinum, and Reserve Delta SkyMiles credit cardmembers
- Flying Blue Silver members
- Virgin Australia Velocity Silver members
- GOL Smiles Gold members
- Sky Team Elite members
Main Cabin 2
- Main cabin passengers
Main Cabin 3
- Main cabin passengers booked in T, X, and V fare codes
- Basic economy passengers (fare code E)
It should be noted that when departing AMS and CDG on Delta flights, Silver Medallion Members will not have their own priority boarding group. This is due to the boarding policies of Air France-KLM, which operates at these 2 airports as their main hubs.
Although this rule is oddly specific and it doesn’t make much sense that a different airline’s boarding policy changes what Delta Air Lines is doing at these 2 airports, we thought you should know in case it applies to you.
Apparently, Delta feels that the passengers who regularly travel with Air France-KLM from AMS and CDG need to have some consistency in their lives and have adjusted their boarding procedures to help with that.
Delta Air Lines allows customers to purchase priority boarding for any flight operated by Delta or Delta Connection. The cost is $15 per flight, and it is one of the “Trip Extras” that Delta makes available to passengers.
Priority boarding, as well as the other available Trip Extras, can be purchased when booking your flight, through the FlyDelta app after booking, online when managing your trips, or at check-in.
Once purchased, priority boarding will give you Main Cabin 1 boarding for your flight. It will be printed on your boarding pass, and you will be eligible to board when Main Cabin 1 is called.
Hot Tip: As a reminder — including Pre-Boarding and Early Boarding, Main Cabin 1 is actually the seventh group of passengers who are able to board the plane.
After you have purchased Priority Boarding for a flight, it is tied to that specific flight and is non-refundable and non-transferable. That means that if you choose to change your flight at a later time, whether online, over the phone, or at the airport, you will forfeit the Priority Boarding pass that you have purchased.
In addition, cardholders of Gold, Platinum, or Reserve Delta SkyMiles credit cards will automatically receive Main Cabin 1 priority boarding as long as their SkyMiles numbers are on their reservations.
This benefit applies to the basic cardholder, and is not available to additional authorized users on the card account. Up to 9 passengers traveling on the same reservation as the basic cardmember will be given Main Cabin 1 priority boarding as well
How to Boost Your Delta SkyMiles Balance
There are plenty of ways to earn lots of Delta Air Lines SkyMiles so you can put your new-found boarding knowledge to use on your next award flight.
Flying paid flights on Delta and their airline partners is probably the most obvious way, but you can earn a serious amount of miles (including Medallion Elite Qualifying miles) with their co-branded American Express cards too.
Depending on the level of benefits you are looking for, the number of Elite Qualifying miles you are looking to earn, and the annual fee you are willing to pay, there is sure to be a card that is right for you.
Delta and American Express even offer co-branded business cards so you can earn SkyMiles with all of your spending, whether it be for home or for work.
Recommended Delta Cards
|Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express - The current welcome bonus is earning 60,000 Bonus Miles after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in purchases within your first 3 months and a $50 Statement Credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months [Offer ends 10/30/2019]. Plus, with a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year (then $95), this is a solid Delta card. Click here for rates and fees of the Gold Delta.|
|Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express - Earn 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMS) and 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. In addition, earn a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. For rates and fees of the Platinum Delta, click here.|
Delta Air Lines is an airline that people seem to love or hate, though it’s not because of the slightly confusing boarding procedure we’ve outlined. With a little explanation, this boarding process isn’t difficult to understand at all.
What people like about Delta is that the inflight experience is one of the best available for domestic U.S. carriers. Comfortable seats and friendly staff can go along way when comparing to airlines like United and American.
The SkyMiles loyalty program, on the other hand, has gotten a bad reputation over the past several years. Things like changes and devaluations with no notice and doing away with award charts completely have made it very difficult to set a goal and save up for an award flight.
Luckily, things seem to be turning around for the SkyMiles program. They didn’t give us back award charts, but there are often low-level awards available when searching for a flight.
In addition, Delta Air Lines has been running several different award sales lately, with discounted award flights available to places like the Caribbean, Central America, Europe, and Asia.
As the SkyMiles program continues to improve (which we certainly hope it will), we are going to be more and more likely to find ourselves boarding Delta Air Lines flights.
Use the information we’ve provided above to understand the details of the boarding procedure, and you will be able to comfortably board your flight without any stress. You might also want to hop over and check out our general airline review on all things Delta!
See you at the gate soon!