Delta is testing D-5 vs D-3 out of Atlanta (ATL). Could it cost Medallions Upgrades?

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. For an explanation of our advertising policy, visit visit this page.

Best Credit Cards


Does 2 minutes matter?

First off let me explain what we are talking about. Traditionally Delta will close the boarding door 3 minutes before scheduled departure. After all, if they closed it at the exact departure time they could technically be late departing from the gate.

Delta wants to see what happens if they move that from 3 minutes to 5 minutes out of Atlanta this month. You may be thinking, so what impact could 2 minutes really have on a flight? They can mean a bunch and Delta representative Ashton Morrow confirmed this test is ongoing at ATL and said “We are testing this to help ensure we depart on time”.


We all know Delta is obsessed with completing every flight and departing on time and just about every Delta flight I ever take lands early or on time and they let you know about this from the cockpit before you deplane. Personally I think Delta pads their schedules, but every time I talk to Delta people about this they deny that.

I know we all want to be on time but you know what else we who hold medallion status also really want? Yep – Upgrades! Could 2 minutes impact our upgrade chances? Again Ms. Morrow stated about D-5 , “It has no impact on customer boarding or upgrades.”

I am not so sure about that. tells us that “You should arrive at the boarding gate at least 15 minutes before your departure time for a domestic flight and 45 minutes if you are traveling on an international flight.” That now leaves only a 10 minute window for those who, for whatever reason, no-show.

The point of this, as I spoke directly to Delta CEO Ed Bastian about at the new B Sky Club opening night gala, is that it is at the gate agent’s discretion if the person who WAS number one on the upgrades list when boarding began can board and expect if a seat in 1st class opens up that the gate agent will come and “pull them” from the back. 2 minutes may not seem like much but that could be just long enough for the agent to decide NOT to come on-board after all.


This means for those of us who fly out of ATL it becomes even more imperative to consider joining what I call #TeamBoardLast (at least during the test). In other words, to be the last elite on the plane to score that seat that, for whatever reason, the person who was checked-in did not make it to the gate 15 minutes before departure and you now can have that seat (you are after all NOW #1 on the upgrades list as everyone else is on-board the aircraft).

It will be interesting to see if this test works like Delta wants and is next implemented system wide. If it is, you had better believe if I have not cleared my upgrade at the gate, I will always hang back and wait to see if 1st class (or C+ if I want it) has boarded full, not just checked-in full! – René


☟ ☟ Amazing 2019 offers ☟ ☟

Best Credit Cards


  1. I’m not sure how Delta, with a straight face, can deny that they don’t pad their schedules.
    My usual 6:45 am to ATL is blocked for about 90 minutes. It’s a 347 mile flight. The runway is roughly 300 feet from the gate. Do the math.
    We arrive early even when air traffic is backed up(almost always) in ATL.
    Even reversing FROM ATL the flight is always “early” by 15-30 minutes.
    Not complaining about arriving ahead of schedule only that Delta’s schedule is clearly overly generous to their on-time rhetoric.

  2. Before the cabin door closes a gate agent brings the manifest on board. Most of them are aware of any no shows.

    If I’m on the bubble and I decide to board, I always tell the gate agent. They know if there is a no show I hope to be upgraded. I have not been passed over yet. If I’m not on the bubble then I do #teamboardlast.

    Time will tell but I think that D-5 may help rather than hurt. Late comers who were suppose to sit up front will now have two less minutes to make the flight.

    Gate agents ultimately control the show. Treat them kindly and they will return the kindness. Chocolate and a smile are a great way to let them know they are appreciated.

  3. I never fly through DTW because invariably I get a 30 min connection and land in a far C gate with my connection going out of the A gates. Closing at 5 ‘in would almost ensure that more folks will miss connections.

  4. Rene,
    I’ve noticed something strange. Recently, I bought up to 1st Class and wouldn’t board until T-10 or even later. The Gate monitors would show 1st Class “checked in” and “claimed/boarded”. So yesterday into RIC, I did the same but I was in C+. I was one of the last to board if not last and as I passed 1st Class there were 2 empty seats. I can’t understand WHY the GUI display would show “checked in ” & “claimed”. That would impact #TeamBoardLast because you don’t know how many seats are actually empty.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *