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Delta Air Lines is scrapping its back-to-front boarding process

Sept. 15, 2021
3 min read
20200922_Delta planes SLC Zach Griff - 4
Delta Air Lines is scrapping its back-to-front boarding process
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One of Delta's last remaining pandemic-era policy adjustments has just come to an end.

On Tuesday, Sept. 14, the Atlanta-based carrier resumed its "normal," zone-based boarding process after nearly 18 months of loading coach passengers from back to front.

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The carrier confirmed the move in the following statement to TPG:

As Delta continues to welcome customers back onboard, we also continue to explore opportunities that keep people moving efficiently and enhance the airport experience. Beginning September 14, 2021, customers will be invited to board according to zones that correspond to loyalty status or the seat product purchased; customers in Main Cabin and Basic Economy will no longer board back-to-front. This update drives efficiency in the boarding process, making it faster and easier for both customers and employees as we continue to listen and respond to feedback.

In April 2020, Delta modified its boarding process to encourage social distancing, saying at the time that "The new process builds on the metered, or spaced, boarding that began in early April, and boards fewer customers at a time to allow for more distance between them." While premium customers were invited to preboard, those seated in coach were asked to board from the back of the plane to the front.

Going forward, Delta's boarding process will begin with preboarding for those who need extra time or assistance, following by premium-cabin flyers, including Diamond Medallion elites. The remaining travelers will be loaded as follows. The airline's Fly Delta mobile app will notify you of the exact time when your seat is called for boarding through a new "virtual queuing" system.

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  • Comfort+ cabin.
  • Sky Priority (Platinum and Gold Medallions and other partner elites).
  • Main Cabin 1 (Silver Medallions, cobranded credit card holders and select partner elites).
  • Main Cabin 2 (coach flyers).
  • Main Cabin 3 (coach flyers booked in deep-discount fare classes: T, X and V).
  • Basic economy (booked in the E fare class).

Returning to pre-pandemic boarding zones comes months after Delta's largest competitors made similar adjustments. In March, Southwest and JetBlue reinstated their pre-pandemic boarding process, followed weeks later by United Airlines.

Of the largest U.S. airlines, Delta made the most sweeping changes to its policies in light of the pandemic. The airline blocked middle seats for nearly a year, implemented a rigorous cleaning practice dubbed CareStandard and even hired a chief health officer from the Mayo Clinic. In fact, Delta won TPG's Editors' Choice Award for a spotlight on safety last year.

Despite the rise in the delta variant, Delta (the airline) is hopeful that consistent masking and increasing vaccination rates should keep the boarding process running safely and smoothly.

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
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