It’s no secret that Delta Air Lines offers a solid flying experience, but did you know that it’s easy to make that experience even better? As one of the most popular airlines in the United States with as many as 200 million passengers per year, chances are good that you’ll be on a Delta flight sooner or later.
That’s why it may be a good idea to learn a few hacks to make your future Delta flight more enjoyable. Specifically, how to be one of the first passengers on the plane with priority boarding.
To board priority the next time you fly with Delta Air Lines, follow these tips and tricks.
In this post you'll learn:
Boarding Priority Zone Breakdown
Delta sorts all flyers into eight boarding groups based on ticket type, loyalty status, and more. Here is a look a the order of boarding as well as who falls into which groups:
- Pre-Boarding: Those with disabilities that require extra time/space or assistance to board AND active-duty U.S. military personnel.
- Delta One: Passengers with Delta One tickets AND flyers with Diamond Medallion loyalty status.
- Delta Premium Select/First Class: Passengers with Premium Select tickets, Passengers with First Class tickets, AND flyers with Diamond Medallion loyalty status (if Delta One is not offered on a flight).
- Delta Comfort+: Passengers with Delta Comfort+ tickets.
- Sky Priority: See “Who Is Eligible to Get SkyPriority?”
- Main Cabin 1: See “Who Is Eligible to Be in Main Cabin 1?”
- Main Cabin 2:* Passengers with Main Cabin tickets.
- Main Cabin 3: Passengers with Main Cabin tickets purchased at T, X, or V fares (these are deeply discounted Main Cabin fares—read more about Delta Air Lines Exception Fares here).
- Basic Economy: Passengers with Basic Economy tickets.
Main Cabin (called Premium Economy with some airlines) is the flight class above Basic Economy, but only the Main Cabin 2 boarding priority class is designated for these customers (unless they have a loyalty status that bumps them into a higher tier).
Who Is Eligible to Get Sky Priority?
Sky Priority is going to be best suited for you if you are not a Diamond Medallion member and you’ve got a Main Cabin or Basic Economy ticket.
All those eligible to board with the Sky Priority zone include:
- Platinum Medallion members
- Gold Medallion members
- Flying Blue Platinum and Gold members
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Gold members
- Virgin Australia Platinum and Virgin Australia Gold members
- SkyTeam Elite Plus members
Who Is Eligible to Be in Main Cabin 1?
Right below Sky Priority in the boarding zone hierarchy is Main Cabin 1. These passengers are far from the last to board, and there are many ways to land a spot in this rank.
All those eligible to board with the Main Cabin 1 zone include:
- Silver Medallion members
- Delta Corporate travelers (those traveling on business that also enjoy specialized services and enhanced booking customizability)
- Delta SkyMiles Gold, Platinum, and Reserve cardmembers (see “Become a Delta Credit Cardholder” below for more information on Delta credit cards)
- Flying Blue Silver members
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Silver members
- Virgin Australia Velocity Silver members
- Those with SkyTeam Elite status (SkyTeam is an alliance of 19 partner airlines including Air France, China Eastern, and Virgin Atlantic)
- SkyMiles Select members
About Delta Sky Priority
Delta SkyPriority is one of the broadest boarding zones because it encompasses passengers of many flight classes and loyalty statuses, even with other airlines. In addition to letting passengers be some of the first on the plane, Sky Priority offers:
- Faster baggage check-ins
- Streamlined security checks
- Expedited baggage services (Sky Priority passengers are some of the first to receive their bags after a flight)
- Priority lanes for baggage and customer service lanes
- Earlier access to the best seats on the plane
- Opportunities to earn rewards for checking in online
Sky Priority is available wherever Delta Airlines flies, but not all services are guaranteed at every Delta airline.
All of the benefits of Sky Priority listed above are granted automatically to passengers with Delta One, First Class, Delta Premium Select, and Business Class tickets. Delta Comfort+ comes with perks like priority boarding and earlier deplaning, but you do not get the benefits above with Delta Comfort+.
If you do not qualify for priority boarding with your tickets because you usually book Economy or Main Cabin, shoot for Sky Priority.
For the purposes of this article, priority boarding will refer to boarding ahead of your typical boarding zone.
Who Gets Boarding Priority Automatically?
Active-duty U.S. military personnel automatically get top-priority status when they fly with Delta Airlines. All they need to do is show identification. Others that are automatically given priority include those with disabilities that require extra time/space or assistance to board.
Unless you fall under one of these categories, you are not eligible to pre-board no matter what loyalty status you have or flight class you purchase.
Purchase a Higher Flight Class
Delta Air Lines offers six different flight classes. From lowest to highest: Basic Economy, Main Cabin, Delta Comfort+, First Class, Delta Premium Select, and Delta One.
Passengers in luxury flight classes enjoy the earliest boarding, with Delta One customers being the first to get on the plane behind those that pre-board. However, the price tag on a Delta One ticket is not going to be reasonable for most people as a ticket of this class may cost up to three times the price of the least expensive ticket available on a flight.
But if you can afford to splurge on something between Economy and Delta One, you can take advantage of the priority boarding you’re looking for. Even Main Cabin tickets—the second-cheapest class—bump you up a little on the boarding totem pole.
Keep in mind, however, that it is possible to get priority boarding even when you purchase a Basic Economy ticket as there are many ways to qualify for priority boarding that have nothing to do with how much your tickets cost.
What You Need to Know About Delta Flight Classes
The first thing to note about the six different flight classes is that they are not offered on all flights. The first two, Delta One and Delta Premium Select are newer additions launched in 2017 that are mostly for long international flights. The four products from First Class down to Basic Economy are what Delta offers, for the most part, on domestic routes.
Here is a breakdown of the six flight classes Delta offers:
- Delta One® – Delta’s most premium product. Mostly available on long international flights.
- Delta Premium Select – Second most premium product. Also mostly available on longer international flights.
- First Class – Third best option from Delta, but best for domestic flights.
- Delta Comfort+® – Last premium option before the main cabin. Domestic flights. Main benefits are an expedited boarding process, more legroom and dedicated overhead bin space.
- Main Cabin – Generally back of the plane seats with some standard Delta amenities.
- Basic Economy – Main cabin seats but with less amenities.
Get to Elite Status With Delta SkyMiles
A great way to guarantee priority boarding for yourself on all Delta Air Lines flights is to work on your loyalty status.
Within SkyMiles, there are essentially two membership tiers. There is the general membership tier that all SkyMiles members start in and the Medallion membership tier that you need to earn your way into. Once you’ve gotten into the Medallion tier, there are four statuses: Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond.
The coveted Diamond Medallion status is not easy to get to, but reaching Medallion status is an attainable goal for many. Even just barely making it into that Medallion membership status will get you priority boarding. Remember, Silver Medallion members get to board with Main Cabin 1.
There is also Delta 360, an elite, invite-only tier for the most loyal Delta passengers there are. The perks at this membership are neither set nor publicly disclosed, but you can bet they’ll be luxurious when so few get an invitation.
How to Become a SkyMiles Member
If you’re not already a member of the Delta Air Lines loyalty program, what are you waiting for? To join SkyMiles, just
Please keep in mind that each SkyMiles account is registered to only one person and that miles are not eligible to be transferred or sold to other accounts. Make sure everyone in your party has their own account.
How to Reach Medallion Status
Unfortunately, you won’t get out of the general SkyMiles membership status until after you’ve flown 30 Medallion Qualification Segments (MQS) OR 25,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQM) and spent at least $3,000 Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQD). You can earn MQDs on most Delta flights, flights with partner airlines, and flight purchases (as long as you’re booking directly with Delta). But once you’ve met these requirements, you’ll be bumped up to Silver Medallion status. Once in Silver Medallion status, you’ll board with Main Cabin 1.
To get to Gold Medallion status, you must fly 60 MQSs OR 50,000 MQMs and spend at least $6,000 MQDs on Delta Air Lines purchases and flights. Once in Gold Medallion, you’ll board with Sky Priority.
To get to Platinum Medallion status, you must fly 100 MQSs OR 70,000 MQMs and spend at least $9,000 MQDs. Members with Platinum Medallion status also board with Sky Priority, but there are more mileage bonuses, complimentary upgrades, and other perks in this tier than in Gold.
Finally, to get to Diamond Medallion status, you must fly 140 MQSs or 125,000 MQMs and spend at least $15,000 MQDs. Once in Diamond Medallion status, you will board with either Delta One or Delta Premium Select/First Class (depending on what is available on your flight).
Please note that you must meet the requirements for your status annually in order to maintain your elite membership. Otherwise, back down through the ranks you’ll go.
Get to Elite Status With a Partner Airline
Not surprisingly, Delta partners with many other domestic and international airlines. This means that you may be able to benefit from your elite status with a different airline if your loyalty status with Delta leaves something to be desired.
Achieving elite status with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Virgin Australia (Velocity Frequent Flyer), Flying Blue, and SkyTeam will guarantee you a better place in line when it’s time to board the plane. If you fly internationally a lot, try your best to do so through airlines that rub elbows with Delta.
Become a Delta Credit Cardholder
Another way to board a little sooner on Delta flights is to have a Delta-branded card. Having a Delta credit card will automatically get you into Main Cabin 1, no matter what type of ticket you have. All Delta cards are issued through American Express.
Here’s a quick look at the Delta credit cards currently available and how many bonus points you can earn if you sign up right now:
- Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express: 35,000 miles
- Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express: 40,000 miles and 5,000 MQMs
- Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express: 40,000 miles and 10,000 MQMs
It’s really not too difficult to get priority boarding with Delta Air Lines, and who doesn’t want to board before everyone else? However, as you can see, when you board ultimately comes down to loyalty status for most people. This means that if you haven’t joined Delta SkyMiles and started working your way up the ladder, you should probably get on that if you want to be prioritized when boarding.
You can also get a Delta credit card to easily obtain priority boarding status, but another surefire way to board earlier is to splurge on a higher flight class (if you can afford to). If you want to keep costs low but still board priority, shoot for a Main Cabin ticket or get your loyalty status up to at least Silver.