Delta Boarding Zones: What They Are, How They Work, and How to Board Earlier

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Learn about the Delta boarding zones and what it takes to board your plane sooner.
Updated April 12, 2024
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Passengers boarding flight

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 Delta Air Lines uses a unique boarding process that organizes passengers into zones. Delta states that this system helps streamline the boarding process and reduces congestion at the gate.

By using multiple zones, passengers should be able to board the plane in an orderly fashion, reducing wait times and improving the overall boarding experience. Let's explore how Delta boarding zones work and how to get priority boarding on Delta Air Lines flights.

In this article

What are the Delta boarding zones?

Delta Air Lines has 10 different boarding groups. Customers needing assistance, active military, and people with top-tier elite statuses board first.

Travelers who purchased a premium ticket and have a Delta credit card also move up in the boarding order. Those who bought basic economy tickets typically board the plane last, though there are ways to get around this restriction. Delta gate agents announce zone boarding in order, and you can find your exact boarding zone on your boarding pass after you check in.

Segmenting passengers into boarding groups eliminates crowding at the gate and enables Delta to recognize loyal customers. Delta also offers priority boarding to passengers in select airline partners based on elite status.

Delta boarding zone Passenger eligibility
Pre-boarding
  • Passengers who need special assistance when boarding
  • Members of the U.S. Military (active duty)
Delta One or First Class
  • Delta One customers
  • First Class customers

Diamond Medallion Members

  • Diamond Medallion Members
Delta Premium Select
  • Delta Premium Select customers
  • Customers traveling with car seats or strollers who need extra time
Delta Comfort+
  • Delta Comfort+ customers
Sky Priority
  • Platinum Medallion members
  • Gold Medallion members
  • Flying Blue Platinum and Gold members
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Gold members
  • SkyTeam Elite Plus members
  • LATAM Pass Black Signature, Black, and Platinum Elite
  • WestJet Rewards Platinum and Gold Elite
Main Cabin 1
  • Silver Medallion Members
  • Delta Corporate travelers
  • Delta SkyMiles Gold, Platinum, and Reserve credit card members
  • Flying Blue Silver members
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Silver members
  • Sky Team Elite
  • SkyMiles Select Members
  • LATAM Pass Gold+ Elite
  • WestJet Rewards Silver Elite
Main Cabin 2
  • Main Cabin passangers
Main Cabin 3
  • Main Cabin customers booked in T, X, and V fares
Basic Economy
  • Basic economy customers (E)


How to get priority boarding on Delta

Travelers have four options to get priority boarding when flying on Delta. You can pay a fee, carry one of the best airline credit cards from Delta, earn elite status, or upgrade your ticket.

Pay the fee for priority boarding

Delta offers the ability to pay for priority boarding for your flights. The cost of priority boarding starts at $15 per flight segment.

To purchase priority boarding, go to My Trips on Delta's website. If you're logged into your Delta SkyMiles account, your upcoming trips should populate. For all other flights, enter your first name, last name, and confirmation number.

Once your trip is found and selected, pay the fee for upgraded boarding. Remember to pay with your Delta SkyMiles credit card if you have one to earn additional miles on the purchase.

Get a co-branded Delta credit card

If you apply and qualify for a co-branded Delta credit card, you could earn Delta SkyMiles on your purchases, but you could also receive various travel benefits. With the right Delta card, you may earn free checked bags, priority boarding, and discounts on in-flight food and beverage purchases.

Priority boarding is a benefit of some of the best travel credit cards that are co-branded with Delta:

Personal credit cards Business credit cards

Keep in mind that you need to be approved for one of these cards to have access to the priority boarding benefit. Additionally, terms and conditions apply to American Express benefits and offers. 

If you got approved for one of these Delta cards, purchase your Delta ticket with it to earn priority boarding.

A closer look at the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

We recommend the Delta SkyMiles Gold Card for people who often travel. You can earn 2X miles on qualifying Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S supermarkets; and 1X miles per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases. This card has a $0 intro annual fee for the first year, $150 per year thereafter annual fee.

Additionally, you receive Cabin One 1 priority boarding and 20% back on in-flight purchases in the form of a statement credit with this card, including food, beverages, and audio headsets. You also get receive the first checked bag free for you and your companions traveling on the same itinerary.

There are no foreign transaction fees with the Delta SkyMiles Amex Gold Card, and you can earn a $200 Delta Flight Credit after spending $10,000 in a calendar year. Terms and restrictions apply.

Earn elite status

The higher your Delta elite status, the earlier you can board your flight. Passengers with Delta Silver Medallion status can board Main Cabin 1. Gold and Platinum Medallion members can board Sky Priority, and top-tier Delta Diamond Medallion elites board after active military and passengers needing extra assistance.

You earn elite status based on a combination of the money you spend with Delta. Your spending is defined as Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs). For example, you reach Gold status when you earn $10,000 (MQDs). You earn $1 MQD per $1 spent on the ticket price for a Delta-marketed flight operated by Delta or by one of our partner airlines.

Can Delta credit cards help you earn elite status?

Certain Delta credit cards can help you earn elite status faster. For example, you can earn $1 MQD for each $20 of purchases made with your Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card or Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card, or $1 MQD for each $10 of purchases with your Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card or Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card.

Also, Delta SkyMiles® Platinum, Platinum Business, Reserve, and Reserve Business American Express Card Members will also receive what's called an MQD Headstart: $2,500 MQDs per eligible card type for the current Medallion Qualification Year.

Upgrade your ticket

If you upgrade your eligible Delta ticket to Delta One, First Class, or Delta Premium Select, you will receive priority boarding. The cost to upgrade your seat varies based on the original ticket purchased, the fare class you want to upgrade to, and seat availability at the time of upgrade.

The price of upgrading with miles also varies based on the same factors mentioned above. Typically, though, you’ll see an average value of 1 cent per SkyMile when you use SkyMiles to upgrade your seat. Because we value Delta SkyMiles higher than that, you may be better off saving your miles to book an award flight instead of using them for a seat upgrade.

FAQs about the Delta boarding zones

What is the boarding order for Delta?

The boarding order starts first with active U.S. Military and passengers needing assistance. Second, Delta One and First Class passengers board. Third, Diamond Medallion Members. The fourth boarding zone is for Delta Premium Select customers and people with car seats or strollers. Fifth is Delta Comfort+ customers.

Sky Priority members board during the sixth boarding zone. The seventh zone is for Main Cabin 1 passengers, which includes Delta SkyMiles Gold, Platinum, and Reserve credit card holders. Zone eight is for Main Cabin customers. Zone nine is for Main Cabin customers booked in T, X, and V fares.Basic Economy passengers board last.

Can you upgrade from the main cabin to Delta Comfort+?

Yes, you can upgrade for early boarding from the main cabin to Delta Comfort+, first class, or Delta One. This is considered an add-on product, so you typically pay extra for it on top of your ticket price.

How much does it cost to upgrade on Delta?

Costs vary depending on the class of ticket you purchased and the type of seat you want to upgrade to. Seat availability at the time of upgrade may also affect the upgrade price. Upgrade pricing is available in the Delta app, online at Delta.com, or by calling customer service.

Delta SkyMiles elite members could receive complimentary upgrades on eligible flights, depending on their status level.

Redeeming Global and Regional Upgrade Certificates is another way to receive a complimentary upgrade on an eligible flight. These upgrade certificates are provided to Platinum and Diamond elite members each year. Keep in mind that Basic Economy tickets are not eligible for upgrades.

Is the Delta SkyMiles card worth it?

Delta Air Lines and American Express offer three personal and three business credit cards. These Delta credit cards can provide useful perks and enable you to earn SkyMiles on your eligible purchases.

For example, if you fly Delta even just a couple times per year, you may find the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card with a $0 intro annual fee for the first year, $150 per year thereafter worth it as you can save on checked bag fees and earn statement credits for in-flight food and beverages. Terms and restrictions apply.

Frequent flyers and travelers who want to earn elite status and have Delta Sky Club lounge access may value the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card. With this card, you can earn $2,500 Medallion Qualification Dollars each Medallion Qualification Year and $1 Medallion Qualification Dollar for each $10 of purchases. 

The Delta SkyMiles Reserve offers an annual companion certificate, a Global Entry fee reimbursement, free first checked bag, and American Express Centurion Lounge access. This card has an annual fee of $650. Terms and conditions apply.

Delta boarding zones: bottom line

Delta has a defined boarding process with 10 different boarding zones. Your boarding group is determined by your elite status, the type of ticket you purchased, and whether you have a Delta credit card. Delta also offers an option to pay for priority boarding on a per-flight basis.

A great path to priority boarding and additional perks, such as complimentary checked bags and discounts on in-flight purchases, is to have a Delta credit card in your wallet. You'll enjoy these benefits and earn miles on your purchases toward future free flights.

Great Welcome Offer and Continuing Rewards

4.6

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

Current Offer

Earn 40,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 in purchases in the first 6 months

Annual Fee

$0 intro annual fee for the first year, $150 per year thereafter

Rewards Rate

2X miles on qualifying Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S supermarkets; and 1X miles per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

Author Details

Lee Huffman Lee Huffman is a former financial planner and corporate finance manager who now writes about early retirement, credit cards, travel, insurance, and other personal finance topics. He enjoys showing people how to travel more, spend less, and live better. When Lee is not getting his passport stamped around the world, he's researching methods to earn more miles and points toward his next vacation.

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