Rookie Wednesday: Who can use the “short” security line and board a Delta jet first?

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RenesPoints Rookie

Welcome to a weekly feature on the Renés Points blog. Each week this series covers in a “rookie” way either a Delta or travel related theme and attempts to break down to a basic level each topic. You can read up on all the previous posts HERE. Now on to this week’s feature.

Have you ever wondered what it takes to enter the short line at security or what all the boarding order really is with Delta? Let’s break it down in a rookie way.

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First of all if you are a Delta Gold Medallion or higher, at most airports, you’re able to use the short line that is the security line often just called the business / elite line. You do NOT have to be flying in business to use this short line. Also, you can check your boarding pass. Even if you are Silver as long as it says elite you should be able to pass (officially Silvers do not have this perk but it may be worth a try if the lines are long).

Now this doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to use the TSA pre line after the boarding pass and ID check but you will at least be able to avoid the first line and security and save some time. To skip the next line you need to get TSA pre or global entry which includes TSA Pre and with the new expanded service to so many airports this becomes more valuable than ever and I strongly encourage you to get GOES or global entry.

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Next what about the gate area and boarding the airplane. What order does Delta use? They make it sound hard with codes. But before the “code words”, if you have mobility issues or are an older individual or in a wheelchairs and those with children under 2 years of age you’re going to be able to board the airplane first before everyone (if you can get past the throng of people you see above to get to the door.

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After this group, the next group is the premium or first class or Business class cabin passengers. You should notice on your boarding pass it will be stamped with the letters PREM for premium cabin or passenger.

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After the business class cabin you have those who are in the SKY or Sky Priority. Medallion Gold or higher members will board before any zone numbers are called to board and this is the last “code word” Delta uses.


Then you have zone 1. Zone one includes silver medallion members and anyone who has any of the Delta American Express cards the Gold or Platinum or Reserve as well as anyone who has for example purchased priority board (as of this date $10 but my guess is it will go up).

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Finally unless you are in any of the above then you are boarding in Zone 2 or 3! One of the major down sides of not boarding early is that you are likely to run out of overhead space and the gate agent will force you to check your carry on to your final destination. There will be no charge for this but it can be a tremendous inconvenience.

Rookies need to know when it comes to Delta, if you are going to fly more than a few times a year, it is well worth investing 20 dollars a year or $100 every 5 years to have your own Global Entry that includes free TSA Pre Check for expedited clearance through security. After that, the $150 fee per year as we talked about here for the Delta Platinum card gives you so many perks it will pay for itself fast.

But why should you care about boarding early? In addition to overhead space for me it gives you time to relax, perhaps check your e-mail, text or e-mail before you are forced to shut your phone off. It also gives you the opportunity to not lose your under seat space; for those of us with long legs this truly can be as valuable as a seat selection.

Have any other questions about security or the Delta boarding process? Then feel free to comment below. – René

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  1. Off boarding for a moment and on to Check-In……

    When I was an FO (Silver) I found it confusing that although there was a branded “Sky Priority” check in station, Silver Medallion’s could use it as well, You would see “Silver Medallion and SkyTeam Elite” underneath some of the signs. (Example:

    But now with T4 at JFK and some other airports, that have larger Sky Priority check-in’s I don’t see the little Silver text all the time in some locations.

    As far as TSA Pre & Global Entry, best thing I’ve ever done. Regardless of my status on any airline, I will be TSA Pree till 2018. Love it!

  2. Thank you, Rene, for a great explanation of the boarding rules. These codes are often lost on passengers. Now, if we could just get the all gate agents to enunciate clearly when making announcements. We’d could understand it better.

  3. This is why some people who don’t know Delta very well assume “zone 1” means you board first and crowd the gate. Why not rename zone 1 to zone 3 and just go zone 1 (prem) 2-Sky, 3-AMEX 4-general 5-general? Maybe that makes too much sense?

  4. Rene, I really liked your column a few weeks ago asking about scary situations people had on airplanes. There were a lot of interesting responses. It might be neat to hear stories from your readers about famous or interesting people they have met on airplanes or in airports. That thought probably arises because I have had a series of interesting and fortuitous encounters lately. In the last month I ran into the Japanese team that had just won the Little League World Series. They were playing around on the escalator to the SkyClub in NRT. Last week on the escalator to Terminal A I ran into Diana Nyad who was returning from her swim from Cuba. She chatted briefly but did not seem to be in a great mood. The same day Lou Ferrigno was getting off the elevator in the A Skyclub as I was getting on. Not A list celebs but it is good to see not all of them use private jets. I bet your readers have had many close encounters with the rich and famous.

  5. Rene,As a Silver Medalion and Million Miler I strongly feel I should have Sky Priority now that a delta Amex card holder has the same boarding as I do. Also I’m a Delta Amex Platuim holder. Who do I write to.

  6. I am booked with Delta this year (UK to Calgary with stopover in Amsterdam (4 hrs)..I am 58 with mobility issues (need to use a cane).. will I be able to board sooner and which zone??? do you answer these posts Renee? Thanks!!

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