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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:

a screen shot of a chart

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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