Delta Air Lines Boarding Policy Guide [2020]

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Delta Air Lines has one of the more confusing boarding group orders since elite members are broken up more than others. Still, it is relatively simple to follow given the different branded terms used to describe the boarding groups and the color schemes that go along with them.

In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the Delta Air Lines boarding groups and policies.

Full list of Delta Air Lines boarding groups

  • Delta One
  • Delta Premium Select or First Class
  • Delta Comfort+
  • Sky Priority
  • Main cabin one
  • Main cabin two
  • Main cabin three
  • Basic Economy

If the Delta Air Lines boarding groups above do not look familiar to you it might be because Delta Air Lines used to have boarding groups one through six.

The first two boarding groups were for Premium and Sky Priority members while the remaining four groups were for boarding zones one through four.

But Delta Air Lines recently changed the boarding group classification to reflect the type of ticket fare purchased. Now, as you can see in the chart below, there are eight different groups labeled according to fare.

In addition to these new names, there is also a coloring scheme for the different types of ticket fares that can help you understand which boarding group you belong to. Honestly, I think they could have done a little bit better on the coloring scheme but here it is:

Different boarding group shades of color.
The Delta Air Lines boarding group color system.

How does Delta Air Lines boarding work?

The process for determining your boarding group begins at booking. The type of fare that you select will usually have an impact on where in the boarding order you will find yourself. (More on that below.)

On the day of your flight, you want to arrive at the airport around two hours prior to departure. You must arrive at least 30 minutes prior to check in and you must arrive at the gate at least 15 minutes prior to departure.

These are just general guidelines and the actual time needed may be different based on the airport, your route, and whether or not you are checking bags. For example, if you are traveling with checked bags through ATL, you need to check in at least 45 minutes prior to departure.

If you would like to see a breakdown of the minimum check-in times for various airports click here.

If you are an experienced traveler or are familiar with the airport and wait times of course you can arrive even later than the recommended arrival times especially if you have TSA Pre-Check and/or CLEAR.  

Personally, I like to arrive at the airport extra early to give me the least stressful experiences as possible. Arriving extra early also means that you will be able to spend time hanging out at the Delta Sky Club if you have access.

In the past, you might hear an announcement or see a screen indicating a specific boarding group zone number but now you will see the branded term for your ticket fare when it is time to board.

For example, if it is time for Delta One/Diamond members to board you will see the purple signage along with the fare class posted on the screen.

You can find your estimated boarding time on your boarding pass (on the paper version or on the mobile version).

Example of a boarding screen when flying Delta.

Delta Air Lines boarding groups explained

  • Pre-boarding
  • Delta One
  • Delta premium select or first class
  • Delta comfort+
  • Sky priority
  • Main cabin one
  • Main cabin Two
  • Main cabin three
  • Basic economy

Pre-boarding

Unaccompanied minors

Unaccompanied minors are children who are 5-14 years old and traveling without a parent, legal guardian or someone who is at least 18 years old. There are special rules regarding traveling as an unaccompanied minor and you can read more about those here.

Customers with disabilities

If you have a visible disability (such as being in a wheel chair, on crutches, etc.), you will be able to board without questions. However, if your disability is not readily apparent it may be a good idea to verify with the gate agent that you can still get pre-boarding.

 Related: Guide to Visiting Airports & Flying with Vision Impairments.

Active members of the military

Delta Air Lines will allow active members of the military to board during pre-boarding.

Related: Check out all of the benefits military members can take advantage of when flying.  

Delta One

If an aircraft has a Delta One cabin, Diamond Medallion members will board with this group. The Delta One product is the premium product offered by Delta Airlines. This product consists of fully lie flat seats and other amenities and you typically find it on long-haul international flights although it can also be flown on some domestic routes.

Delta Diamond Medallion Members are the top level of elites with Delta Air Lines.

Related: 15 Best Ways to Redeem Delta SkyMiles

Delta Premium Select or first class

The groups consist of Delta Premium Select customers, First Class customers, and Diamond Medallion Members (if the aircraft does not have a Delta One cabin). The first class passengers who fall into this group are those flying first class on shorter flights such as on domestic flights across the country.

Delta Premium Select is basically just a premium economy product which is an upgraded class between economy and business class that is typically found on long-haul flights. You’ll get a wider seat, additional recline, and an adjustable footrest and leg rest on Delta Premium Select.

It’s also possible that Delta will offer early boarding for customers traveling with carseats and strollers at this point. This is known as “early access.” These groups used to be a part of the pre-boarding group but got pushed back after the changes in 2019.

Delta Comfort+

Delta Comfort+ is the upgraded economy class product.

It’s similar to Main Cabin Extra on American Airlines as it allows a little bit of extra legroom and comes with some additional perks. The extra legroom might only be up to 3 inches more but for people of certain heights, those 3 inches can go a long way.

You can read more about it here.

Sky Priority

Delta Platinum Medallion members and Gold Medallion members will board in this group. A lot of people were not happy that Platinum and Gold members were forced to board after Delta Comfort Plus passengers but that is how the recent changes played out.

Members who have not boarded with another group will board here as well. These include elite members belonging to the following groups:

  • 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

Main cabin one

If you hold the lowest level of elite status with Delta, known as Silver Medallion, you will board with the first group of economy passengers.

Note: Silver Medallion Members will not have a dedicated Priority Boarding zone on Delta flights departing AMS and CDG due to Air France-KLM boarding policies.

Other passengers who board with the first economy group are Delta SkyMiles Gold, Platinum, and Reserve Card Members. These are the co-branded Delta Airlines credit cards issued by American Express. These cards also come with additional perks such as free baggage and in some cases a companion certificate.

Tip: Check out the free app WalletFlo so that you can optimize your credit card spend by seeing the best card to use! You can also track credits, annual fees, and get notifications when you’re eligible for the best cards!

Other members who will board in this group include the following:

  • Delta Corporate Travelers
  • Priority Boarding Trip Extra customers
  • Flying Blue Silver members
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Silver members
  • Virgin Australia Velocity Silver members
  • GOL Smiles Gold members
  • Sky Team Elite
  • SkyMiles Select Members

Main cabin two

This group will consist of additional main cabin passengers who do not fall into the Main cabin three group based on the type of fare bucket they purchased.

Main cabin three

Main Cabin customers booked in T, X and V fares will be the last economy passengers to board before basic economy. You can see the available fare class displayed at the time of purchase when searching for flights. For example, here is a look at a main cabin ticket displaying the “T” fare. If you booked that ticket, you would be boarding in Maine Cabin three.

Search results showing economy fare.

Basic economy

Basic economy tickets are the cheapest type of airfare you can purchase. These tickets do not come with certain perks such as not allowing you to select your seat so as you can imagine you will be the last group to board.

While basic economy will not charge you for a carry-on item, you still will likely not have space to store it on many aircraft. Therefore, you may have to check your bag which you can do for free.

Delta Air Lines boarding FAQ

What are the Delta Air Lines boarding groups?

  • Delta One
  • Delta Premium Select or First Class
  • Delta Comfort+
  • Sky Priority
  • Main cabin one
  • Main cabin two
  • Main cabin three
  • Basic Economy

When do American Express cardmembers board?

American Express cardholders of Delta co-branded credit cards are allowed to board with main cabin group one.

What are the Delta Air Lines boarding coronavirus changes?

Due to the coronavirus, delta made some temporary changes to its booking including allowing passengers to begin boarding at the back of the plane first. Find out about other changes here.

Final word

The boarding order for Delta Air Lines is a little bit different from other airlines that prioritize elite members more. However, it’s still pretty easy to follow with the different color schemes and branding terms used for the different ticket fares.

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