Skip to Content

Delta’s New Boarding Process Could Irk Frequent Flyers

Getting on board a Delta Air Lines flight is going to be a bit more complicated starting Jan. 23, 2019.

The airline is doing away with its current zone boarding procedures and plans to begin a color-coded boarding process that, among other things, will delay when some frequent flyers make their way to their seat.

Some things aren’t changing: Passengers who need assistance getting on board will go first, followed by passengers in the ultra-premium Delta One cabin (if the plane has one), then First Class and Diamond Medallion members, the highest rank of its frequent flyer program.

From there, though, it’s a whole new ballgame. Next up will be passengers with a Comfort+ ticket, followed by Gold and Platinum Medallion members. (Previously, those groups boarded together.)

From there, it’s a group called Main Cabin 1, which includes Silver Medallion members and people who carry a Delta credit card, along with some passengers in coach class. That’s followed by Main Cabin 2 and Main Cabin 3, which are roughly the same as Zones 2 and 3 today. Finally, passengers who elected for “Basic Economy” fares (the cheapest tickets) will board last.

All totaled, it’s eight boarding categories instead of six.

“Every customer values consistency and a sense of knowing what to expect when they’re traveling,” said Tim Mapes, Delta’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer, in a statement. “We have been listening to our customers about the stress they often feel at the gate before boarding, and implementing small changes for years. This latest enhancement further refines how Delta’s process works and is designed to better link the Delta product they purchased to differentiated experiences throughout their journey.”

The changes are one of a number of plans by the carrier to attempt to save passengers time. In September, Delta announced a facial recognition check-in system it said could save passengers nine minutes per flight.