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.
Delta Air Lines Boarding Zones
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!
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.
How To Get Priority Boarding
Pay for Priority Boarding
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.
Have the Right Credit Card
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.
Earn Elite Status
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.
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 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.
Recommended Delta Cards
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 the 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 of the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card, click here.