Delta Is Updating Their Boarding Process – Here’s How to Make Sure It Doesn’t Negatively Impact You
Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.
Update: One or more card offers in this post are no longer available. Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers.
It seems like recently, many of the airlines that we fly with have started to play around with new configurations of the boarding process. Last month, I talked about Southwest’s new idea to board the plane from both the front and the back (a method that’s in practice in many other countries and seems to work really well). In October, we talked about the new United Airlines boarding process that’s focused on reducing the time travelers have to stand in line before boarding the plane.
Now, it looks like Delta is strategizing new ways to improve their process as well.
There are several different reasons to switch up a boarding process, and most airlines list both efficiency and customer satisfaction as their main motivators for reviewing the way people enter a plane. If you’re interested in getting priority boarding with Delta, it comes as a free perk with these AMEX Delta cards.
Delta is one of the airlines that seems like it has a pretty standard boarding process. You’re assigned a zone number that informs you how to line up. You’re also assigned a seat number (unlike the free-for-all seating with Southwest) so you know exactly where to go once you’re on the plane.
This is what most people expect the airplane boarding process to look like. So what’s new? What’s changing?
Here’s What’s New With the Delta Boarding Process
Delta is moving away from “zone boarding” (the process most of us are used to, lining up to board a plane based on the zone number on our ticket). Instead, the new boarding process will be based on the type of ticket you purchased.
The chart below gives a good overview of what this will look like.
Delta’s theory is that with more boarding groups, there will be less traffic around the gate. People will (hypothetically) wait to line up for boarding until their group is called. And there will be fewer people in each group, hence less of a crowd waiting to board the plane. You can see from the chart that Delta is moving from 6 boarding groups to 8 boarding groups with the hopes that this will create a more streamlined and efficient process.
With Delta’s new “Branded Boarding” passengers will line up based on the class of ticket they purchased. This change will impact everyone who flies on Delta. Starting January 23, 2019, Delta will introduce this new boarding process for all flights.
Personally, I don’t know if this will work out exactly as Delta hopes. Adding more boarding groups may or may not improve the loading process, but I don’t think it will do much to discourage people from lingering around the gate, waiting to be the first one to line up once their group is called. One thing that it might accomplish though is to add value to the class of ticket you purchase.
For example, now, you can be sure that when you buy a Sky Priority fare, you’ll be in boarding group four. If it’s important to you to be one of the first passengers to board the plane, you might be more enticed to upgrade your fare. Or you could save money by getting a card like the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, which will get you Zone 1 (Main Cabin 1) boarding on every Delta flight.
What do you think of Delta’s new plan to add more boarding zones?
I’m torn. On one hand, anything that helps an airline board the plane faster seems like a great idea because that typically translates to a faster take off time. On the other hand, it seems like there are so many boarding groups already. Would this just add to the confusion? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.
Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)