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Starting on January 23, Delta rolled out a new boarding process. It mimics American’s change that increased their number of boarding groups to nine. At least Delta only has eight numbered groups with the new system. It may seem a bit ridiculous, but I’m hopeful this will improve the gate and boarding experience a bit. Boarding, especially at the Sacramento Airport with poor queues, is the only poor part of the experience when I fly Delta.
New Delta boarding groups
Delta is rolling out new, numbered boarding groups. There are a grand total of eight, but not all will apply to every flight. The total number is a slight increase from what they had before, and the main switch is changing to a numbered system rather than having simply a name or code like “SKY”. Here is a diagram of the new boarding group arrangement for Delta flights:
Splitting SKY and Comfort+
The biggest change that I see in this change to the boarding process is the bifurcation of the SKY zone into Comfort+ and SKY. Previously, the SKY zone was for Gold and Platinum Delta elites and those holding a Comfort+ ticket. All of these would have put you in the SKY zone. Now the two boarding zones are distinct. In essence:
- If you get the Comfort+ “upgrade”, you’ll board in this group along with people who booked paid Comfort+
- If you’re a Gold or Platinum elite traveling in Main Cabin, you’ll board in Sky Priority Group 4
This will be a slight disadvantage for lower-level Delta elites who might not be “upgraded” (I use the term loosely) to a Comfort+ seat, as they would board later. It is an advantage, however, for those who decide to purchase a Comfort+ ticket from the start. In my opinion, this split will be an advantage to everyone, as it will reduce the gigantic SKY zone that I’ve seen during many Delta boarding operations. I find that a very large number of those traveling Delta end up in this group, and splitting this zone should be advantageous to everyone.
The second change is the division of the Premium group into a distinct Delta One group and then a First Class / Premium Select Group. Diamonds will board with the higher of these groups. If neither of these cabins exist, they will be invited to board first.
I’ll be interested to see how this plays out in a couple weeks when I fly east again for work out of Sacramento. The boarding queues at SMF are poorly defined, in my opinion, and the Delta flight I take to Atlanta typically ends up with a mob of people in the gate area. The number of people who are in the SKY group is a bit ridiculous, so I expect splitting this group will have an overall positive impact on the whole boarding process. As long as people don’t line up early, which may still be a pipe dream.
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You mentioned that previously, the SKY boarding zone was for all Delta elites. This is not correct, it was for Gold and Platinum Medallions. Diamond Medallions boarded with Premium Boarding and Silver Medallions with Zone 1.
In the same context you mentioned, folks bying a Comfort+ ticket wouldn’t have been put in to SKY boarding zone … that it depended on your status. No, people seated in Comfort+ boarded with SKY … no matter their status or membership at all.
Except for Diamonds seated in C+, they boarded with Prem.
So now the difference is that C+ boards before Gold and Platinum Medallions seated in the main cabin. Diamonds don’t change and Silvers seated in the main cabin don’t change.
The other difference is that on international flights folks in the Delta One cabin and those in the Premium Select cabin board in two different groups (were both in Premium Boarding zone).
Thanks. Not sure why I wrote all. I had in my mind Silver, Gold, and Platinum as the lump of “all” elites all boarding in SKY, knowing that Diamonds still enjoy boarding in a higher group depending on what cabins are available.
From the sound of it, this should likely still break the large SKY group up, which is the one thing I was hoping it would do.
Ralfinho ignores the CC holders. All of those holders lost priority boarding, and moved to group one?
Looks like they will be in the first zone of Main Cabin, which used to be Zone 1, but is now Group 5.
That’s right, they are now in main cabin 1, which was Zone 1. So no change for credit card holders.
They still board with Silver Medallions and after all higher elites and Comfort+.
For those who always boarded after SKY nothing has changed. For them it doesn’t really matter if those seated in Comfort+ board together with those enjoying Sky Priority or if they board separately.
Anyway, good to remember CC holders, too. I tend to forget about that because there is no such thing as a SkyMiles Credit Cards for us in Germany.
I don’t get why airlines make this so excruciating. I fly Southwest simply because of the boarding process. Max Six lines. I flew JBLU and was in the last boarding group. I asked if I was going to get a seat inside or was I assigned to flying on the wing.
Passengers hate waiting. They hate confusion. Did I say they hate waiting? All other airlines besides Southwest, MHO, should copy WN. At least with WN we know what to expect, we can buy up, we control the experience as much as we can.
And don’t get me started on biometrics. All I know is how it can be misused and how my iPhone won’t recognize my fingerprints whenever I have clean hands and that is all the time! Cheers — Kathryn
I agree with another commenter about Southwest. It is so easy to understand. I also like United’s boarding process, which mimics Southwest more than the other legacies, boarding military, special assists, Global Services, 1K, and Group 1 (other higher elites) in one lane and Group 2 in the other, then calling the other numbered groups later.
As a former Delta Silver Medallion and continued Amex Platinum credit card holder, boarding and flying in the main cabin will not change much for me. Of course, I will have to buy Comfort+ or first class for those tiers of boarding and service.