Edited by: Stella Shon
& Keri Stooksbury
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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 tried to be different. You can see it in the name, where 2 words are used for “Air Lines” instead of the single word “Airlines.” And when it comes to boarding, Delta does things differently, too.
But don’t worry — once you understand what is being talked about, it’s not that hard to follow.
We know the terms, we understand the procedures, and we’ll make sure that you do, too. Let’s take a look at the details of the Delta Air Lines boarding process, and you’ll be ready the next time you fly.
It seems that Delta Air Lines couldn’t quite decide how it wanted to organize its aircraft boarding procedures. Or perhaps it just wanted to use fancy words to make its higher-tier customers feel more special.
Either way, it ended up with a mix of 10 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!
|First Class or Delta Premium Select||
|Diamond Medallion Members||
|Traveling With Small Children||
|Main Cabin 1||
|Main Cabin 2||
|Main Cabin 3||
If you have any concerns about when your group is boarding, the Fly Delta app has a virtual queuing feature to let you know when your seat is boarding.
It should be noted that when departing Amsterdam (AMS) and Paris (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 and KLM which operate at these 2 airports as their main hubs.
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 Fly Delta app after booking, online when managing your trips, or at check-in.
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.
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.
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 Delta Gold card, Delta Platinum card, Delta Reserve card, Delta Gold Business card, Delta Platinum Business card, and Delta Reserve Business card 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.
Of course, the higher your elite status the sooner you’ll be able to board. For example, top-tier Delta Diamond Medallion elites are one of the first boarding groups. And Gold and Platinum Medallion members can board Sky Priority.
Check out our guide to earning Delta elite status for an in-depth look at how you can earn and status. And don’t forget that being Delta credit card holder is also beneficial when it comes to more easily earning elite status.
There are plenty of ways to earn lots of Delta Air Lines SkyMiles so you can put your newfound boarding knowledge to use on your next award flight.
Flying paid flights on Delta and its airline partners is probably the most obvious way, but you can earn a serious amount of SkyMiles (including Medallion Qualifying Miles) with its co-branded American Express cards, too.
Depending on the level of benefits you are looking for, the number of Medallion 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.
This card provides bonus SkyMiles on all purchases, along with a free bag, priority boarding, and discounted award flights.
Frequent Delta flyers will love the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card. The card offers great benefits that will help save you money, effectively mimics low-level elite status with Delta SkyMiles, and helps you earn miles even faster, all for a low annual fee. Let’s dive into the benefits to see if the Delta Gold card is a good fit for your needs.
Receive 2x SkyMiles on Delta purchases and eligible business purchases, priority boarding, a free checked bag, and discounted award flights.
Delta Air Lines is your first choice for business travel, and you’re always looking for more ways to earn Delta SkyMiles.
Being able to board the plane early and check your bag for free makes all the difference for a smooth flight. Plus, getting discounts on inflight purchases keeps money in your pocket and your small business.
It’s for those reasons and more that you choose to make purchases with the Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card.
Frequent Delta travelers will enjoy this card's bonus categories, benefits, and ability to reach higher levels of elite status.
The Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card can be a great option for those seeking additional ways to obtain a higher level of status — or to maintain their current status — with the airline.
A key feature of this card is the ability to earn bonus Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) that are essential for earning Delta status. This could help you get closer to earning free flights and other valuable rewards.
Between great perks and the potential to earn plenty of SkyMiles, this card is a must-have for frequent Delta travelers.
As a small business owner and frequent Delta flyer, the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card is your go-to credit card.
You like knowing you’re earning double the SkyMiles for purchases with Delta; benefits like no foreign transaction fees, priority boarding, and a free checked bag each flight only sweeten the deal.
Plus, you can redeem your SkyMiles for travel on Delta and its partner airlines, saving you money. It’s a no-brainer!
Delta loyalists will love the fast track to Delta elite status, lounge access, baggage benefits, and upgrade priority with the Delta Reserve card.
The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card is a stellar option for frequent travelers who always fly with Delta thanks to its lounge access, status boost, annual companion certificate, and many other great benefits.
Here is a full look at everything the Delta Reserve card can offer to you to help you decide whether the card deserves a place in your wallet.
Receive priority boarding, complimentary access to Delta Sky Club and Centurion Lounges, concierge support, and an annual companion certificate.
The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card is a premium card option for small business owners who are both frequent travelers and Delta loyalists.
While the annual fee may be steep, the card comes loaded with perks and benefits that all frequent Delta flyers are sure to love. Let’s take a look at what makes the card unique, and why it may be a great fit for your wallet.
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. However, the SkyMiles loyalty program has gotten a bad reputation over the past several years. Things like the removal of award charts and devaluations have made it very difficult to set a goal and save up for an award flight.
As the SkyMiles program continues to evolve (in a positive way, hopefully), you may be more likely to find yourself boarding a Delta Air Lines flight. 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!
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card, click here.
For rates and fees of Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card, click here.
For rates and fees for the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card, click here.
Delta Air Lines uses 10 different boarding zones for its flights. These include pre-boarding for children, premium passenger boarding, Sky Priority passengers, partner elites, and 3 numbered boarding zones, among several different groups.
Yes, Delta Air Lines uses assigned seating for its flights. Seat assignments can be easily selected when booking eligible tickets or at check-in and can also be assigned or changed by gate agents at the airport.
Customers needing assistance or additional time to board and active duty U.S. military personnel with ID are allowed to preboard Delta flights. Families traveling with small children and with car seats or strollers can board after Delta One and First Class or Delta Premium Select passengers, but before a majority of boarding groups.
The First Class or Delta Premium Select boarding zone on Delta flights includes first class customers and Delta Premium Select customers.
The Sky Priority boarding zone on Delta includes:
Boarding Main Cabin 1 on Delta includes:
Boarding Main Cabin 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.
Boarding Main Cabin 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.
The final boarding group for Delta includes basic economy passengers (fare code E).
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Since discovering miles and points in 2010, Jeff has traveled to over 35 countries, flying in first class, business class, and sometimes even in coach. Whether he’s staying in a hostel dorm, or in a luxury suite at a 5 star hotel, Jeff is constantly looking for the best deal to make travel as close to free as possible.
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