Delta Air Lines Boarding Zones — Everything You Need to Know

Delta Plane at Gate

Full Disclosure: We may be compensated when you click on links to credit card products from our advertising partners, such as American Express, Chase & Barclays. Opinions on this site are ours alone, and have not been reviewed or approved by the issuer. See our Advertiser Disclosure for more details. Thanks!

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. Instead of having “boarding groups” like you may be used to, Delta has “zones.”

They use terms like Sky Priority and Medallion throughout the process. 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.

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 6 numbered and named boarding groups, actually called zones, along with pre-boarding for certain customers. Confusing, right?

We can only assume this leads to some cranky passengers who have boarding zone 1, but see 3 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 zones that Delta uses, so you’ll know what to expect. You’ll never be that cranky passenger wondering why you aren’t onboard yet!

Pre-Boarding

  • Customers needing assistance or additional time to board, including families with car seats or strollers
  • Active duty U.S. military personnel with ID

Premium Boarding Zone

Sky Priority Boarding Zone

  • Platinum Medallion Members
  • Gold Medallion Members
  • Delta Comfort+ customers
  • 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

Zone 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
  • Crossover Rewards SPG Platinum members

Zone 2

  • Main cabin passengers

Zone 3

  • Main cabin passengers booked in T, X, and V fare codes

Zone 4

  • Basic economy passengers (fare code E)

Boarding Notes

It should be noted that when departing AMS and CDG on Delta flights, Silver Medallion Members will not have their own priority boarding zone. 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.

Priority Boarding

Delta Boarding Gates
Having a co-branded Delta American Express card that gives you priority boarding will get you onboard with plenty of time to stow your bags and get comfortable before takeoff. No more standing around stressing at the gate about when you should be boarding the plane. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com.

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 zone 1 boarding for your flight. It will be printed on your boarding pass, and you will be eligible to board when zone 1 is called.

Hot Tip: As a reminder — including pre-boarding, zone 1 is actually the fourth 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 zone 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 zone 1 priority boarding as well

Bottom Line: Although you will still be behind premium cabin passengers and upper-level elites, purchasing priority boarding will get you on the plane at the same time as the lower-level elite passengers and before the rest of the main cabin passengers. So it might be worth the $15 cost if you want to make sure there’s space for your bag in the overhead bin near your seat.

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

Final Thoughts

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 this year, 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.

See you at the gate soon!


Featured Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

FAQ

How many boarding groups are there on Delta?

Delta Air Lines uses 6 different boarding zones for their flights. These include Premium boarding, Sky Priority boarding, and 4 numbered boarding zones. In addition, certain passengers needing special assistance or traveling with small children are allowed to pre-board.

Are Delta Air Lines flights assigned seating?

Yes, Delta Air Lines uses assigned seating for their flights. Seat assignments can be easily selected when booking or at check-in, and can also be assigned or changed by gate agents at the airport.

Who is allowed to pre-board on Delta?

Customers needing assistance or additional time to board, including families with car seats or strollers, and active duty U.S. military personnel with ID are allowed to pre-board Delta flights.

Who is in the Premium boarding zone on Delta?

The Premium boarding zone on Delta flights includes Delta One customers, first class customers, Delta Premium Select customers, and Diamond Medallion members.

Who is in the Sky Priority boarding zone on Delta?

The Sky Priority boarding zone on Delta includes Platinum Medallion members, Gold Medallion members, Delta Comfort+ customers, Flying Blue Platinum and Gold members, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Gold members, Virgin Australia Platinum and Gold members, GOL Smiles Diamond members, and SkyTeam Elite Plus members.

Who is in zone 1 on Delta?

Boarding zone 1 on Delta includes 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, and Crossover Rewards SPG Platinum members.

Who is in zone 2 on Delta?

Boarding zone 2 on Delta includes main cabin passengers who do not have any elite status and do not hold one of the premium co-branded credit cards.

Who is in zone 3 on Delta?

Boarding zone 3 on Delta includes main cabin passengers who are booked in T, X, and V fares and do not have any elite status or hold a co-branded credit card.

Who is in zone 4 on Delta?

Boarding zone 4 on Delta includes basic economy passengers (fare code E).

Advertisement

Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card

Disclaimer: Any comments listed below are not from the bank advertiser, nor have they been reviewed or approved by them. No responsibility will be taken by the bank advertiser for these comments.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

Advertiser Disclosure

Many of the credit card offers that appear on this site are from credit card companies from which we receive compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). This site does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers. For more information on our advertisers, see here.