United Airline BoardingToday’s Wall Street Journal has an article about how alike the three major airlines have become in many ways.  (See here.)  But every Road warrior knows each airline has a distinct system for boarding passengers.   And every airline boarding system has a different way to establish the priorities between groups of passengers.  As a public service, I am offering what I believe to be the first ever Airline Boarding Equivalency Chart to help you understand where exactly you are in the “pecking order” on each of the major airlines.

At this time, I can offer this free Airline Boarding Equivalency Chart only for the Big Three Airlines.  I  simply do not have enough recent experience with the other airline boarding systems.  Please note:   You may want to print out this airline boarding guide out and keep a copy in your wallet.  It really is that handy.

 

American

Delta

United

GROUP 1

DO NOT BE FOOLED.
You will still board after the holders of the following credit cards
:

  • American Airlines Advantage Card
  • American Airlines Double Advantage Card
  • American Airlines Take Advantage Card
  • Diner’s Club Card
  • American Express Card
  • Any card with a MasterCard or Visa logo
  • All gasoline credit cards
  • Neiman Marcus or Landry’s credit card
SEE AMERICAN GROUP 1

Same process as on American, except the credit cards are different. Cardholders with priority on Delta include:

  • Waffle House cardholders
  • Krispy Kreme frequent buyer cardholders
  • Chick-Fil-A cardholders
Congratulations.
This generally means something on short-haul flights only. You will board only after Global Services
members (which are really rich people, celebrities, CEOs, etc.), military personnel in uniform, or 1K members.Try to get to know these people (except the 1Ks), they are potential life partners. (The 1Ks have no life.) BUT BEWARE!!
On long-haul flights, Group 1 is gigantic and (especially on Thursday evenings) is filled with Deloitte and Accenture employees. ALSO BEWARE:
on unpopular routes, United’s Group 1 can be filled with people like me who rarely get an upgrade. Try not to socialize with either of
these types of people unless you are a nerd.

GROUP 2

YOU HAVE BEEN PUNK’D

Even though Group 2 sounds good, you are part of the great, unwashed masses. You might as well go up and check your roller bag right now.
There will be no space left when you get on the plane. I know it is hard to believe, but trust me on this one.

SEE AMERICAN GROUP 2

Except that on Delta, unlike American, you will have room for your luggage and need not check it. Folks on Delta seem to have fewer bags
and sometimes travel only with those long sticks that have a bag made of a bandanna tied to the end.

Group 2 is now often the largest group.
It is made up of normal road warriors, but not the extreme road warriors, who have 1K status. Be careful socializing with this group; they are grumpy that they have not been upgraded and are often pre-occupied looking to see if they
recognize anyone in Group 1.

GROUP 3

BE PREPARED

When you get on the plane everyone who has already boarded has been instructed to laugh, point at you, and chant “Group 3”.

SEE AMERICAN GROUP 3

Except the folks on Delta plane have inexplicably been told to chant “Lock her up!” as you board.

This group is filled with vacationers. They do not know how to board, they have too much luggage, and they are drunk. Socialize at your own
risk. Mile High Club hook-up material can be found here. (NB. I met my wife in Group 3.)

GROUP 4

This is the literal equivalent of Standby. You do not have a seat yet. DO NOT BE FOOLED. SEE AMERICAN GROUP 4

Except that on Delta, in the entire history of the airline, no one has ever cleared standby. It is an inside joke in Delta to see when we
will notice and complain to the FAA.

These people are very nervous because they are on their first flight, be kind to them.

GROUP 5

KNOW YOUR MIRANDA RIGHTS.
This group is used by Homeland Security to identify and round up people on the “do not fly” list. Remember these people can legally buy guns, so they may be armed and dangerous. Walk by them quickly.
SEE AMERICAN GROUP 5

Except on Delta, this group is used by Homeland Security folks to catch the suspects who inevitably slipped through their cracks on a recent
American flight.

This group is easy to pick out by their orange jumpsuits and shackles. This group tends to be quite large on flights to cities with State
or Federal prisons. These passengers are hoping the plane will crash lightly and they will escape, like in the beginning of The Fugitive.

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