8 Things to Know Before You Fly Delta Air Lines

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things you need to know before you fly Delta Air Lines
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NEW: Delta added Virtual Queuing to its mobile app in January 2020. See below for details.


Delta Air Lines has come a long way since it began in Macon, Georgia, in 1924 as a crop-dusting operation. After a brief stint in Monroe, Louisiana, the airline moved back to Georgia and christened itself Delta Air Service as a nod to the Mississippi Delta.

Today, the carrier employs more than 90,000 people around the world and is headquartered in the Atlanta suburb of Hapeville, where it’s been since 1941.

Thinking of Booking a Delta Flight? Read This First

If you’ve never flown Delta or are thinking about booking a flight on the carrier again soon, here are some things to know before you fly.

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  1. Where Does Delta Fly?
  2. What Is Delta’s Baggage Policy?
  3. How Is Delta’s Seat Selection?
  4. What Are Delta’s Boarding Zones?
  5. How Can You Find Cheap Delta Flights?
  6. Does Delta Have a Frequent Flier Program?
  7. Does Delta Price Match Its Fares?
  8. How Do Customers View Delta?

1. Where Does Delta Fly?

The Delta umbrella, which includes its numerous partners and a regional affiliate service, Delta Connection, flies to more than 325 domestic and international destinations in more than 60 countries. Delta is the only U.S. airline to service six continents. You can download their route maps here.

2. What Is Delta’s Baggage Policy?

The airline stipulates that passengers can bring one carry-on item on board, plus one personal item for free. All carry-ons must be no larger than 22″ x 14″ x 9″ and be able to fit underneath the seat or in the overhead storage compartment.

Delta’s fee for checked bags in the main cabin for domestic flights is $30 for the first bag under 50 lbs., and $40 for the second under 50 lbs. The price matches some of the other carriers.

Delta baggage fees - these airlines just raised baggage fees

These fees may be waived for frequent fliers (see below) and holders of certain Delta-affiliated credit cards.

3. How Is Delta’s Seat Selection?

In April 2019, Delta cut down on how far back the seats can recline on its A320 planes. That means customers in coach and first-class have two less inches of space to recline.

On the subject of Delta’s seat selection, the airline said it took the measure “to make the in-flight experience more enjoyable.”

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To find out if your flight is on an A320, look at your flight itinerary. If the information is not there, it will typically be on the boarding pass.

Aside from First Class, Delta has a number of premium seats, which are offered as part of its Premium Economy Class, Delta Comfort Plus and Delta Premium Select.

Premium Economy is a class of service that includes wider seats, noise-canceling headphones and better meal options.

Meanwhile, Delta Comfort Plus features up to four inches of extra legroom compared to regular main cabin seats. Premium Select seats, which come with wider seats and adjustable headrests, are only offered on select international flights.

For Basic Economy fares, you typically won’t be able to choose your seats until check-in or when they’re assigned at the gate.

4. What Are Delta’s Boarding Zones?

Delta’s boarding priority changed in January 2019 when the airline did away with zones and introduced “branded boarding” by fare type. Here’s what that means:

The airline uses colors that represent the following eight class fares:

  1. Delta One
  2. Delta Premium Select or First Class
  3. Delta Comfort
  4. Sky Priority
  5. Main Cabin 1
  6. Main Cabin 2
  7. Main Cabin 3
  8. Basic Economy
9 things you need to know before you fly Delta Air Lines
Photo credit: news.delta.com

Virtual Queuing

The airline also has introduced “Virtual Queuing” on its mobile app. The feature sends you a personal notification when your zone is getting ready to board, Delta says.

This screenshot from Delta.com shows how Virtual Queuing looks in the app:

Delta introduces virtual queueing on its mobile app

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5. How Can You Find Cheap Delta Flights?

There are several ways to find cheap Delta flights, but you have to be savvy. Let’s go over three ways:

Delta Deals Page

One of the easiest ways to find cheap Delta flights is to check out the Flight Deals & Offers page on their website.

Delta’s Basic Economy Fares

We touched on it earlier, but Delta’s basic economy fares can save you some big money. These low-cost fares are there to compete with budget airlines like Frontier Airlines.

It’s important to keep in mind, though, that Delta basic economy seats have a ton of restrictions. This is what it says on Delta’s Basic Economy page:

When you purchase Basic Economy, you will typically enjoy our lowest fare, but seats will be assigned after check-in and you will not be able to change or refund your ticket after the Risk Free Cancellation period. Additionally, you will not be eligible for: paid or complimentary upgrades; paid, complimentary or discounted Delta Comfort+®; paid or complimentary Preferred Seats; or ticket changes including Same-Day Confirmed or Same-Day Standby travel changes, regardless of Medallion or other elite status. Checked baggage fees will apply, even when traveling internationally.

Additionally, basic economy fares aren’t eligible for:

  • Paid or complimentary upgrades
  • Paid, complimentary or discounted Delta Comfort+ fares
  • Paid or complimentary Preferred Seats
  • Ticket changes like same-day confirmed or same-day standby travel changes

Because of the many restrictions, money expert Clark Howard has said that basic economy is an attempt by major carriers to make flying “as miserable as they possibly could.”

6. Does Delta Have a Frequent Flier Program?

Yes, Delta’s frequent flier program is called SkyMiles and it’s free to join. The loyalty program has been ranked as the #2 airline rewards program by U.S. News & World Report,

if you’re wondering what value SkyMiles have and more, see our article on how to get the most out of Delta SkyMiles.

A Delta SkyMiles membership is separated into two classes: General membership and the elevated Medallion membership. Here’s what to know about both of them:

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SkyMiles: General Membership Benefits

    • There are no blackout dates.
    • Travelers can earn miles for flying or other activities like shopping
    • You can also accumulate Skymiles for ridesharing on Lyft and Uber
    • Earn miles by booking a hotel or car rental on Delta.com
    • Members can earn miles flying with 20+ airlines

As for Medallion members, they get all the benefits of general SkyMiles members plus more.

SkyMiles: Medallion Membership

The Medallion program is comprised of four tiers that you achieve by reaching certain mileage thresholds: Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond. Here’s are the major perks of each level:

  • Silver Medallion: You get priority check-in and boarding as well as complimentary preferred seats, waived baggage fees and priority status on any waiting lists.
  • Gold Medallion: You get the lower tier’s benefits plus waived fees for same-day stand-by flights and expedited baggage service and SkyTeam lounge access.
  • Platinum Medallion: You get all the lower tiers’ benefits plus the option to gift other members your SkyMiles. You also get crossover rewards like free Wi-Fi from Starwood hotels and more.
  • Diamond Medallion: You get all the lower tiers’ benefits plus unlimited complimentary upgrades, complimentary Sky Club membership and more.

Learn more about Medallion rules and benefits here.

7. Does Delta Price Match Other Sites?

Because Delta doesn’t want to be undersold online, the airline offers a Best Fare Guarantee that rewards comparison shoppers if they find a cheaper fare on another site. Here’s what it says:

“If you find that your exact same Delta ticket is at least $10 lower on another U.S.–based travel website, then we’ll make it right by refunding you the difference and rewarding you with a $100 voucher for your next purchase.”

8. How Do Customers View Delta Air Lines?

When it comes to customer satisfaction, Delta came in fourth place among major U.S. carriers in the American Customer Satisfaction Index report that was released in April 2019.

Airlines2019 Score2018 Score
Alaska Airlines8079
JetBlue Airways7979
Southwest Airlines7980
Delta Air Lines7574
American Airlines7374
All Others7173
Allegiant Air7174
United Airlines7067
Frontier Airlines6462
Spirit Airlines6362

Bottom Line

Delta is one of the largest airlines in the United States, so it offers an array of services for travelers of any budget.

Although Delta doesn’t have a lot of cheap fares, you can find them if you keep tabs on their Deals Page (mentioned earlier) as well as Google Flights.

Also, make sure you book early enough to take advantage of advance-sale fares.

When it comes to flying, it’s important to get the best deal possible. If you’re thinking about booking, before you do, check out Clark’s #1 rule for cheap travel.

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