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Travel Tuesday: Delta is Changing Its Boarding Procedures… Kind Of

As a loyal-ish Delta customer, I like to think that I have a pretty good handle on what to expect when flying the airline. This includes knowing the order of their boarding groups — and even what I’d need to do in order to move up the food chain. Well, soon, that’s all changing… at least a bit.

Currently, Delta’s boarding system involves a series of group names that mostly correspond to its cabin products — with a couple of bonus groups thrown in. So, after pre-boarding, you have:

  • Delta One/First Class
  • Diamond Medallions and Premium Select (on select aircraft)
  • Delta Comfort+
  • Sky Priority (Gold and Platinum Delta Medallion members)
  • Main Cabin 1 (and Silver Delta Medallion members)
  • Main Cabin 2
  • Main Cabin 3
  • Basic Economy

If you’re keeping count, that’s eight total boarding groups (not including pre-boarding or “early access”). Well, as The Points Guy reports, soon these groups will be replaced with Zones. As you may have gathered, there will be eight total Zones.

To start, pre-boarding will continue to include customers needing more time or assistance as well as active military members. However, Delta 360 Members will now be able to board during this time whereas they previously boarded with Delta One/First class.

On that note, Zone 1 will kick off the formal boarding process with — you guessed it — Delta One or First Class passengers. Delta Diamond Medallion members will follow in Zone 2. Additionally, on aircraft that offer a Premium Select cabin, these passengers will also board with Zone 2.

After Zone 2 is the “Early Access” opportunity for customers traveling with car seats or strollers. From there, the Comfort+ group is now Zone 3, Sky Priority is now Zone 4, Main Cabin 1 is now Zone 5, Main Cabin 2 is Zone 6, Main Cabin 3 is Zone 7, and (finally) Basic Economy is pulling up the rear in Zone 8. As a reminder, Delta Gold and Platinum Medallion members as well as select elites from partner airlines are eligible to board in Zone 4 while Silver Medallions and the like will board in Zone 5.

These updates are set to take effect on May 1st, 2024. By the way, if this all sounds kind of familiar, it’s because Delta previously had a system similar to this “new” one before. Plus, many other airlines currently employ boarding systems that resemble this type of terminology to some degree.

So will this update impact my experience on Delta? Not really. In fact, in practice, the only real change involves Delta 360 members — and I’m nowhere near achieving that. Although, even for someone like me who knows the boarding order, seeing that I’m in “Zone 5” rather than “Main Cabin 1” will be disheartening and anxiety-inducing (Lord help me if I’m ever Zone 7 or 8).

In any case, I can see why this change would be easier for less-frequent Delta flyers. Moreover, in the event of a language barrier, I could see this updated Zone-based approach being much clearer. Either way, I guess I’ll have to wait and see it for myself whenever I take my next Delta flight.

Author

Kyle Burbank

Founder ~ Moneyat30
Kyle is a freelance writer - including being the head writer for Fioney.com. He also serves as editorial director for the Disney fan site LaughingPlace.com and the founder of Money@30.com. In 2015, Kyle and his wife Bekah moved from Los Angeles to Springfield MO in pursuit of greater financial freedom. Together, the pair enjoy travel, coffee, and spending time with their dog Rigby. Additionally, as of 2023, they become first-time homeowners.

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