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Airlines with priority boarding

Board your plane early and settle your bags in the overhead bin.

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Fact checked

Our pick for priority boarding: United℠ Explorer Card

United℠ Explorer Card logo

40,000-mile

Signup bonus after spending $2,000 in first 3 months

  • Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit
  • Get 2x miles at restaurants, hotels and on United Airlines
  • $0 intro annual fee, then $95
See offer
Priority boarding is a cool airline perk designed to reward frequent flyers and those who fly in premium cabins and higher seat class. For these groups, priority boarding is complimentary. Others may either purchase priority boarding or purchase the airfare with eligible airline credit cards and get priority boarding as a reward.

What is priority boarding?

Priority boarding is the process at which certain customers can board the plane before others. This can give you enough time to settle your bags in the overhead bin and relax before takeoff.

How can I get priority boarding?

  • Earn elite status.
    Frequent flyers who have earned elite status with an airline often have the benefit to board early. Some airlines let elite status members of partner airlines use this perk.
  • Purchase higher class ticket.
    Passengers in the premium cabins and on first or business class usually get to board first.
  • Get an eligible credit card.
    Some airline cobranded credit cards come with priority boarding for the main cardholder and passengers traveling on their reservation. If you travel often, this perk can save you time and money.
  • Purchase priority boarding.
    Most airlines let you buy priority boarding. However, this is typically tied to a single flight and if you change it, you lose this perk. Also, the price varies depending on your itinerary.

Compare credit cards that offer priority boarding

Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
50,000 miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months until 10/28/2020
2x miles on Delta purchases, restaurants and at US supermarkets and 1x miles on all other purchases
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($99 thereafter)
With a welcome offer worth up to $600, up to 2x miles on select purchases, and assorted Delta perks, this is a strong choice for Delta fans. Rates & fees
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
40,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
2x points on Southwest and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rentals and 1x points on all other purchases
$149
Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months of account opening.
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card
60,000 miles and 5,000 MQMs after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
3x miles on Delta and direct hotel purchases, 2x miles at restaurants and US supermarkets and 1x miles for all other purchases
$250
This card boasts a welcome offer worth up to $720, an annual companion certificate and valuable Delta perks. Rates & fees
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
40,000 miles and 10,000 MQMs after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
3x miles on direct Delta purchases and 1x miles on all other purchases
$550
Delta's luxury offering shines with access to Delta Sky Clubs, Centurion Lounges, an annual companion certificate and more valuable travel perks. Rates & fees
CardMatch™ from creditcards.com
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Use the CardMatch tool to find cards you're likely to qualify for with your credit score, without a hard pull on your credit.
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Who’s eligible for priority boarding?

Most airlines offer priority boarding to specific customers without paying a fee, including:

  • US military personnel with an ID.
  • Passengers who need assistance to board.
  • Families with children of age two or younger.
  • Customers traveling with strollers or car seats.
  • Unaccompanied minors.

How to use priority boarding

Some airlines will include priority check-in and security along with priority boarding. This can help you reach the gate faster.

Once there, check your boarding pass to see which boarding group you’re in. Wait until the announcer calls your group to board. Some airline mobile apps offer push notifications to let you know when boarding starts.

Bottom line

Elite status members and passengers traveling in premium cabins enjoy priority boarding. Eligible airline credit card owners also get this perk while everyone else has to purchase it.

If you like to get priority boarding without paying for it, consider an airline credit card.

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