Delta Boarding Order Explained

Premium fares board before most Medallion members but Delta elites and Delta cardholders do get a boarding bump.
Ramsey Qubein
By Ramsey Qubein 

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Delta follows a particular boarding order for each flight so that it can depart on time. As with other airlines, you’ll want to be at the gate on time so you don’t miss your turn in the queue and find ample space for carry-on bags. 

With 10 boarding zones (as Delta calls them), it can be a bit confusing, especially if you arrive at the gate after any boarding announcements were made. Luckily in many airports, Delta uses screens that display which group is boarding at that particular moment so look for those, if available.

If you fall toward the latter portion of the boarding order, there are ways to move up the pecking order without having to fork over for a premium cabin seat. Here’s an explainer on the Delta boarding order and how you can get closer to the front of the line on your next flight. 

The 9 Delta Air Lines boarding zones

Delta has nine official boarding zones, but with a dedicated protocol for who can preboard the plane, there are essentially 10 groups when it comes down to it. 

First up is the opportunity for those that need extra time to board the plane as well as active-duty U.S. military members with identification. 

After that, the nine remaining groups board in a particular order, and their names may make it less clear on whose turn is next since they do not follow a simple Group 1-9 boarding zone system. Here’s what to expect at the gate, and yes, there will surely be a crowd of passengers straining to hear the announcements or push forward before their turn. C’est la vie!

Order

Boarding zone

SkyMiles Medallion members

Other passengers and elite status members from partner airlines

0

Preboarding

N/A.

Those that need extra time to board the plane and active-duty U.S. military members with identification.

1

Delta One or First class

N/A.

  • First class passengers.

  • Delta One passengers (two-class aircraft).

2

Delta Diamond Medallion

  • Diamond Medallion members.

N/A.

3

Delta Premium Select

N/A.

  • Delta Premium Select passengers (on eligible aircraft).

  • Passengers traveling with car seats and strollers.

4

Delta Comfort+

N/A.

  • Delta Comfort+ passengers.

5

SkyPriority (preferred boarding)

  • Platinum Medallion members.

  • Gold Medallion members.

  • Flying Blue Platinum and Gold members.

  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Gold members.

  • LATAM Pass Black Signature, Black and Platinum Elite members.

  • SkyTeam Elite Plus members.

  • WestJet Rewards Platinum and Gold Elite members.

6

Main Cabin 1

  • Silver Medallion Members.

  • Delta Corporate travelers.

  • Delta SkyMiles Gold, Platinum and Reserve American Express cardmembers.

  • Flying Blue Silver members.

  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Silver members.

  • SkyTeam Elite members.

  • SkyMiles Select members.

  • LATAM Pass Gold+ Elite members.

  • WestJet Rewards Silver Elite members.

7

Main Cabin 2

N/A.

  • Main Cabin customers.

8

Main Cabin 3

N/A.

  • Main Cabin customers booked in T, X and V fare classes.

9

Basic Economy

N/A.

  • Basic Economy passengers (E).

Priority boarding zones

The first several zones include premium cabin passengers, including first class and Delta One cabins as well as Premium Select and Delta Comfort+. It also includes Diamond Medallion members, but leaves out all other elite status passengers until SkyPriority boarding is called. 

SkyPriority

SkyPriority is the branded premium access for priority check-in and boarding for SkyTeam airlines. This is essentially the 6th of 10 boarding zones, which means most elite status flyers below the Diamond Medallion level will have to wait awhile before their turn.

This includes Platinum and Gold Medallion members as well as top elite members from partner airlines. If you’re unfamiliar with Delta’s boarding zones, it may seem surprising that you have to wait this long to board.

Main Cabin 1

Delta’s entry-level elite status Silver Medallion members have to wait a bit longer to board. This group also includes lower-level elite status passengers from partner airlines as well as those with a Delta SkyMiles co-branded credit card

Holding the credit card could be the fastest way to elevate your boarding zone if you are traveling in the main cabin. These include popular cards like the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card and the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card cards. Terms apply.

How are Delta boarding zones assigned?

If you have elite status, a Delta co-branded credit card and are traveling in a premium cabin, Delta will automatically assign passengers to the highest eligible zone (in this example, premium cabin boarding).

This means if a Diamond Medallion buys a basic economy ticket, they can still board in the priority boarding zone for Diamond Medallion members rather than waiting for the last zone for basic economy flyers to be called. This provides extra incentive to achieve top Medallions status. 

Another example would be a Delta co-branded American Express credit cardholder who buys basic economy. The passenger can jump the queue from boarding last with basic economy passengers and join the Main Cabin 1 zone for faster access to the plane.

If you typically buy basic economy, being approved for a Delta credit card could be the ideal fast track to faster boarding.

How to get priority boarding on Delta

Priority boarding, before main cabin passengers, can be quite valuable since it means you’ll have more access to overhead bin space and can get settled a bit faster. Here are the different ways you can guarantee faster boarding on Delta flights.

Fly in a premium cabin

If you book one of Delta’s top flight products (like Delta One or first class), you’ll be among the first passengers to board. Delta’s premium cabin flyers, no matter the destination, board before Diamond Medallion members although Diamonds traveling in a premium cabin can also board with the higher zone.

Premium economy passengers in the Delta Premium Select passengers also get priority boarding after first class, Delta One and Diamond Medallion members. Premium Select is available on select international flights.

Following Premium Select flyers, Comfort Plus passengers board before the remaining passengers. If you don’t want to pay for first class (Delta One or Premium Select), Comfort Plus is an often cheaper way to secure priority boarding.

Hold SkyMiles elite status or SkyTeam/partner airline elite status

While you’ll have to wait until halfway through the boarding zone order, SkyMiles members with Platinum Medallion status and lower as well as SkyTeam Elite Plus and SkyTeam Elite status can board next. This may not be the highest priority in the Delta boarding order, but it is usually before the majority of other passengers seated in the main cabin. Even if you’re flying in the main cabin, those with elite status can board with their relevant, earlier boarding zone. 

SkyPriority boarding includes Platinum and Gold Medallion members as well as SkyTeam Elite Plus flyers. Silver Medallion and SkyTeam Elite members board in the Main Cabin 1 group. 

Board as military

Active members of the U.S. military carrying a military ID can board before everyone else, including those in the premium cabin. 

Hold a Delta co-branded credit card 

If you carry a co-branded Delta SkyMiles credit card, you’ll automatically be assigned the Main Cabin 1 zone (unless you already are in the premium cabin or elite status).

Since you will probably board before most of the main cabin, there should be plenty of overhead bin space. This benefit can more than outweigh the annual fee that comes with these cards. 

Become a Delta Corporate Traveler

Travelers whose company has a corporate agreement with Delta can take advantage of additional benefits that include Main Cabin 1 boarding. This means you’ll board before other travelers in the main cabin unless you have higher Medallion status or are traveling in the premium cabin.

In that instance, you will board with the relevant, higher boarding zone. The ticket must be reserved and paid for through the corporate travel portal.

Pay for the Ascend package

Those who don’t qualify for any other priority boarding can simply pay for it. Delta offers a trip extra called the Ascend package that can be added onto a ticket for an additional fee. It includes boarding in the Main Cabin 1 zone. It also includes inflight Wi-Fi.

Understanding the Delta boarding order for flights

The Delta boarding order has a rhyme and reason to it, but travelers must understand where they fall within the pecking order. The SkyTeam airline prioritizes those traveling in premium cabins over most elite status members.

But, holding any elite status or a Delta co-branded credit card will give you faster boarding than travelers in the main cabin. If you fly Delta often enough, but still have not achieved elite status, consider the credit card path that can get you closer to the front of the line before everyone else. 

(Top photo courtesy of Delta Air Lines)


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