Travelmarketreport: Delta Air Lines is Changing The Way It Boards The Flights


Delta Air Lines Is Changing the Way It Boards Flights

byDaniel McCarthy/
Delta Air Lines plane at JFK waiting to board passengers

Photo: Mulevich /

Travelers flying Delta Air Lines will be greeted by a brand new boarding system next month.

Delta had previously boarded by ticket, seat, and status, with Delta One or First Class boarding right after pre-boarding, and then Diamond Medallions, followed by Premium Select, Delta Comfort+, Sky Priority members, and main cabin guests divided into three groups. Basic Economy boards last.

The airline is not moving away from that order. Instead, Delta is changing what it calls each of those groups, and how those groups appear on tickets, going from "branded boarding" to numbered boarding.

Starting on May 1, Delta will board with numbered zones, matching the process that other airlines use and Delta had used pre-2019. Each of those previous groups will be given a zone number to board with depending on their ticket, seat, and status.

Those flying Delta One or First Class will be Zone 1, Delta Medallion members and Premium Select customers will be Zone 2, Delta Comfort+ will be Zone 3, Sky Priority will be Zone 4, and then the three main cabin groups will be Zones 5, 6, and 7. Basic Economy customers will board last in Zone 8.

Delta will continue to offer pre-boarding for those needed more assistance, and then for active military members, before Zone 1. Those traveling with car seats and strollers will board just before Zone 3.

Zones 1 through 4 will use the Sky Priority lane and Zones 5 through 8 will use the General Boarding lane, as they do today.

Delta told TMR on Wednesday that the move was done with "simplicity" in mind.

"While a simple change, this transition to numbered zones will provide customers more clarity into the boarding sequence and make the boarding process more intuitive—especially for infrequent travelers and/or customers who might face a language barrier at the gate. Numbered zones will also align more closely with our joint venture and international partners, providing international customers a more simplified, consistent experience when traveling on mixed-metal itineraries," a Delta spokesperson told TMR.

"It’s a small change, but one with big potential to make the boarding process less stressful and more streamlined--for both our customers and our agents."

Delta had moved away from the zone system before 2019, explaining at the time that it wanted to encourage fewer customers to line up at the gate area at any one time. It said that moving away from boarding by zone would bring “consistency, simplicity, and clarity to the gate and boarding experience.”

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