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Priority boarding with Delta credit cards – how it really works

by on Thu April 19, 2012 • 25 Comments

Delta credit card priority boardingDelta offers priority boarding as a benefit of each of its Delta SkyMiles American Express credit cards. And while it’s a useful benefit, you should be aware it does not mean you will be the very first to board the plane.

You will board in ‘Zone 1.’ And before you make any assumptions, note that doesn’t mean you’ll be the first group to board the plane either. In fact, it’s the THIRD group to board the plane. How does that work? Well there are two groups that don’t have Zone numbers for premium level flyers.

Here’s how it works…

  • First…’PREM’ Zone – First / Business Class passengers
  • Second…’SKY’ Zone – Sky Priority passengers (Gold Medallion flyers and above in Economy class, full fare Economy class)
  • Third…Zone 1 – Silver Medallion passengers in Economy class and Delta SkyMiles credit card holders
  • Fourth…Zone 2 – Economy class
  • Fifth…Zone 3 – Economy class
  • Sixth…Zone 4 – Economy class

The good news is the first two zones are not the majority of the plane. You’re still boarding ahead of most coach passengers, along with 25,000+ mile flyers, and will find ample room for your bag most of the time. Business flyer heavy routes are the few that have a lot of elites who may board ahead of you, as some of those flights can have half the plane or more as elite ‘Medallion’ level flyers.

Just don’t have the expectation that your credit card will let you be the very first to board and you’ll find it a useful benefit.

These are the Delta credit cards that allow Zone 1 priority boarding…

  • Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express
  • Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express
  • Delta Reserve American Express

This is in addition to a first free checked bag for you and up to 8 others in your reservation, as well as a 20% discount on inflight food, beverage, and entertainment purchases.

You can also extend the priority boarding benefit to the traveling companions in your reservation by having them booked in the same reservation. Zone 1 will show up on their boarding pass.


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25 thoughts on Priority boarding with Delta credit cards – how it really works

  1. Trent

    I have the gold delta sky miles American express card. I have yet to have any checked bag’s free. I have been charged for mine and my family members traveling on the same teservation each time. Why? I have asked at the counter and all I get are dumb looks.


      @Trent – Very strange. Are you sure the SkyMiles number tied to your credit card is the same one that you’re entering into your flight reservations?

  2. Kris

    Priority Boarding doesnt mean you can go through priority security, correct? I wasnt aware that my Platinum card allowed priority boarding and I just paid for myself and a companion for priority boarding. Anything I can do about that?


      @Kris – Correct unfortunately it doesn’t. And as far as we know, no refund on the priority purchase on your ticket.

  3. CT

    I just booked my first Delta flight and purchased comfort+, your app states that I have the benefits of sky zone. Is that correct? If that’s not the case, when would I board with comfort+?

  4. Ann

    Does my Delta gold Amex card give me priority boarding on Air France and KLM? I am on international flights that are operated by Delta and KLM. I show my credit card. There is confusion though under your operating agreement.

  5. Jim Carlson

    My wife just texted me that she had “Zone 2” on her boarding pass for a trip purchased by our daughter (who also holds a Gold Delta AMEX). I told her to show the card and get on with zone 1.

    I don’t know if she entered her Skymiles number in her reservation. What entries prompts the system to elevate her to Zone one? Is my advice to show the GDA card correct?

  6. Ray Robinson

    Am a 1.5 million miler, life time silver elite, Delta gold AMX connected to my Delta Frequent Flyer number. What do I need to do to get Sky Priority boarding?

  7. NoPoh

    I’m confused, in the last 3 months, I have travelled numerous times on Delta using my Skymiles account. Each time, I am only getting SKY Priority one way or for only me and not the rest of my party. The most recent was this past weekend. I purchased 6 round trip tickets with my Gold Delta Skymiles CC from American Express. Going to our destination we were ALL in Zone SKY but coming home we were Zone 1! The time before this, I was only Zone SKY and the rest of my party had Zone 2 and this was ONLY 1 way!

    1. Anna

      I have Delta Gold AMEX. Recently flew and am confused on what I can and cannot do. Boarding passes had zone 1. That is clear. Here are my questions
      – Can I use the priority line for getting checked in?
      – Can I use the priority lane for boarding?
      – If you buy a first class seat, would that put you in the SKYPRI category for that flight only, or always?
      – Any other way to be SKYPRI?
      Thank you.


        @Anna – You can board when Zone 1 is called (which is actually after the PREM and SKY zones, so it’s the 3rd group to board), but no priority lane for getting checked in.

        As for a first class seat, that will actually get you ahead of the SKY category, and put you in PREM for that flight only.

  8. Reidun Stack

    We have the Delta gold am ex credit card, we order our tickets with our sky miles number, but we never see priority boarding on our boarding pass. This always leaves us confused. When we ask, we are allowed to use priority boarding. Why would this happen?


      @Reidun Stack – Are you sure your Gold Amex card is associated with the same SkyMiles account number? Sometimes they will generate a brand new SkyMiles account if you forget to add your SkyMiles number when you apply.

      1. Reidun Stack

        I will double check, but we are not running into any issues with accruing miles to use, so I don’t expect that to be the issue.

  9. 1st time

    I have a Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express.

    Must I book the flight using this card to get priority boarding? Or do I get priority boarding just because I possess the card?

    Thank you!


      @1st time – You don’t need to buy your ticket with the card. Just add your SkyMiles number to your reservation.

  10. Always late

    If you are a Delta Skymiles Amex (platinum) card holder, and are late for boarding, can you use the (empty) Sky Priority boarding line? Or are you supposed to wait in the general long line that’s now boarding the final zone? I’m assuming it’s the latter, but curious.


      @Always late – Yes your Zone 1 boarding pass lets you use the Sky Priority lane while general passengers are boarding. Just be polite about it and it is a benefit of the boarding process.


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