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

Sep 15, 2021

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

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.

Want more airline-specific news? Sign up for TPG’s free new biweekly Aviation newsletter!

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.

  • 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 photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs up to two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® after you apply through any Authorized Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
17.24%-26.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.