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What is Delta Sky Priority — and how do you get it?

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Life’s most important commodity is time. Delta Air Lines’ Sky Priority is designed to give you more of it.

Delta Sky Priority is a service that’s only available on Delta-operated flights. It eliminates common bottlenecks associated with air travel (think check-in, airport security, baggage claim, etc.). If you manage to qualify for Sky Priority, you can practically walk into the airport and onto your plane.

Delta Sky Priority can’t be purchased outright, but there are two ways to qualify for it. Notably, holding the right combination of rewards credit cards can score you automatic Sky Priority for every single Delta flight.

Here’s what you need to know about this helpful service.

What is Delta Sky Priority?

Delta Sky Priority upgrades your travel experience in four ways:

  • Priority check-in: When you first enter the departures hall, you’ll (often) find multiple check-in lanes. Most are for regular customers, but a select few are exclusively for Sky Priority passengers.
  • Priority baggage: Delta agents will place a special tag on your checked bag that will ensure your luggage is one of the first on the carousel at your final destination.
  • Priority security: Though often only available during peak operating hours, you may benefit from a security lane reserved exclusively for Sky Priority customers.
  • Priority boarding: You’ll board the plane before the Main Cabin and right behind the Delta Premium Select and Comfort+ groups. This guarantees that you’ll have plenty of overhead bin space at your disposal.

Some of these benefits don’t seem like a big deal — being the first to grab your stuff at baggage claim might save 20 minutes tops —  but it’s a noticeable touch. The expedited security and check-in lane, in particular, could save you an incredible amount of time. This is especially beneficial if you’re someone who doesn’t like to arrive at the airport super early.

delta sky priority

How to earn Delta Sky Priority

Delta Sky Priority is for a select few. There are only two ways to get it: one is expensive, and the other is a bit difficult to achieve. And while its prohibitive nature is a bummer for most, it ensures that those who do qualify for it will get top-notch treatment.

Elite status

Believe it or not, it’s possible to secure Delta Sky Priority for no money. But there’s still a price: Your undying loyalty to Delta. Those with Delta Gold Medallion status or higher will automatically receive Sky Priority when booking a Delta flight.

To earn Gold Medallion status, you must earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Dollars in a calendar year. There are two ways to earn MQDs in a hurry.

The first is by flying. You’ll earn 1 MQD per dollar you spend on the ticket price for a flight operated by Delta or one of its partners. The second (and objectively better) method to earning MDQs is by using Delta cobranded cards. The recent Delta card changes have made it a lot easier to earn elite status. Both the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card and the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card earn 1 MQD for every $20 spent on purchases. The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card earn 1 MQD for every $10 spent on purchases.

Even better, all four of the above cards now offer 2,500 MQDs at the beginning of each year — just for being a cardmember. If you were to hold all four of the above cards, you’d receive 10,000 MQDs each year, automatically qualifying you for Gold status. Amex lets you hold up to five cards, including a mix of personal and business.

It’s also worth noting that you can receive Sky Priority if you’ve got elite status with a different airline that is a member of SkyTeam (Delta’s airline alliance). When you earn certain levels of elite status with a SkyTeam airline, you’ll also be awarded a SkyTeam elite status. Achieving SkyTeam Elite Plus confers Sky Priority for Delta flights.

Finally, those with LATAM Pass Platinum, Black and Black Signature, as well as Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Gold status, also qualify for Delta Sky Priority.

Premium fares

If you’re not loyal to Delta but still want Sky Priority, you can get it by booking premium Delta seats such as Delta One, Delta Premium Select or first class.

True, these seats often cost considerably more, whether you’re booking with cash or miles. But I’ve found that you can receive Sky Priority for the entirety of your trip by upgrading just one segment of your flight after booking. For example, I recently flew from Portland, Oregon, to Cincinnati via Atlanta. I upgraded only my Portland-Atlanta flight, and I received Sky Priority all the way to Cincinnati.

Delta Airbus A330-900neo Boston

Does Delta Sky Priority get me access to the Delta Sky Club?

Unfortunately, having Sky Priority does not automatically mean that you will have access to the Delta Sky Club lounge.

Sky Club access is given to those traveling on premium Delta-operated or SkyTeam flights. Additionally, Delta elite members (those with Gold, Platinum or Diamond Medallion status) can enter the Sky Club when flying in Delta Premium Select internationally or in Delta One.

If you have the Delta SkyMiles Reserve personal or business card, you will receive complimentary access to the Sky Club lounge when flying on a same-day Delta-marketed flight. However, cardmembers flying on basic economy fares will not be allowed access.

Check out Delta’s website for more about specific access to the carrier’s Sky Club lounge.

How to get similar benefits without Delta Sky Priority

Thanks to travel credit card benefits, you can enjoy some Delta Sky Priority-esque perks without actually having Sky Priority.

For example, the best credit cards for Delta flights, such as the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card or Delta SkyMiles Platinum Card, offer priority boarding in the Main Cabin 1 group. This is one group behind Sky Priority, and it still virtually guarantees that you’ll be in your seat before the majority of other passengers.

Additionally, those with TSA PreCheck can get through airport security faster, similar to Delta’s priority security. TSA PreCheck comes with its own dedicated lane, and it allows you to keep your jacket, shoes and belt on when going through the metal detector. You’re even allowed to keep your laptop and carry-on approved toiletries in your bag — which is a massive time-saver.

You can get complimentary TSA PreCheck (via statement credits) with cards like the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card and The Platinum Card® from American Express.

Bottom line

Delta Sky Priority can mitigate the minor stresses of air travel by reducing your wait times at check-in, security, boarding and baggage claim. To get it, you must either have elite status with Delta (or another SkyTeam airline) or purchase premium airfare.