How To Get Priority Boarding On United Airlines

They say the early bird gets the worm. But when it comes to traveling via plane, the early bird gets first dibs on the overhead bin, enjoys more time settling in their seats, and dodges the hassle of having to squeeze past passengers. Yup, priority boarding does sound sweet.

Not everyone gets the privilege of boarding the aircraft first, of course. Airlines typically categorize passengers into groups, and those groups are prioritized accordingly. For instance, Southwest Airlines organizes passengers into three groups: Group A, B, and C, while Delta Airlines has 10 different boarding zones. If you often fly with United Airlines, though, you're already likely familiar with its process of categorizing passengers into six groups: pre-boarding and Groups 1 through 5.

The pre-boarding group comprises unaccompanied minors, uniformed active members of the U.S. military, passengers with disabilities, and families with children aged two and below. United Global Services and Premier 1K members (more on this later) are also part of this particular boarding tier. If you don't qualify for these criteria, don't fret. There are other ways to enjoy priority boarding with United Airlines.

Purchase priority boarding or get a United card

If you want to reap the benefits of boarding the plane ahead of everyone else on a United Airlines flight, the easiest way to do that without buying a first-class or business-class ticket is by purchasing a priority boarding pass, which starts at $15. The price can still change depending on when you booked the flight or the specific date and time of your flight. The kicker is that you cannot buy this pass if you have a Basic Economy ticket unless you have an airline elite status like Star Alliance Gold or are a frequent United Airlines flyer who has reached the Premiere Gold or Premiere Platinum elite tiers.

Alternatively, you can get a United credit card to enjoy priority boarding. Qualifying credit cards include the United Explorer Card, United Club Infinite Card, the United Presidental Plus Card, and United Quest Card. These cards have steep annual fees, though, starting at $95. If you often fly with United, however, $95 is already considered a steal instead of having to spring $15 or more per flight every single time.

Vie for a Premier 1K or United Global Services membership

Frequent flyers of United Airlines may qualify for the Premiere 1K status or even the highly coveted United Global Services membership. To be eligible for Premiere 1K, you have to either earn 54 Premier Qualifying Flights (PQFs) and 18,000 Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs) or collect 24,000 PQPs in a calendar year. One PQF is equivalent to a single flight, while PQPs can be earned through various methods, including purchasing Economy Plus tickets, flying with Star Alliance partners, and buying preferred seating upgrades. When you have Premiere 1K status, you will get priority boarding and enjoy a host of other benefits, including but not limited to priority check-in, free drinks and snacks, complimentary checked bags, and better points accrual.

If you think only the cream of the crop can qualify for Premiere 1K, wait until you hear about United Global Services, an invitation-only program. Aside from the perks from Premiere 1K, United Global Services members get access to a dedicated hotline and email for further assistance, the highest upgrade and standby priority, Mercedes-Benz tarmac transfers, and overall VIP treatment. The criteria for this are quite murky, although it's believed that you have to spend at least $50,000 a year on flights or be an influencer or celebrity. 

All these sound unattainable? You can always board last. This way, you won't have to deal with a swarm of people; you may even switch to a better seat if the flight is not empty.