How to Keep Your Priority Boarding Privilege

By Cathleen McCarthyLifestyle and

Dear Cashing In,

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I saw your answer on airline credit cards and boarding privileges, which was helpful. My question is: If I own an airline credit card, but have purchased the ticket using another credit card (or in my case, for work, it is purchased with a company credit card) do I still get the early boarding privileges offered by the airline credit card? Recently, on a United Flight, with one stop and no plane change, I was asked to leave the plane and take my luggage with me, then re-board in the last group. Needless to say, I was not happy. With the airlines charging additional baggage fees, and overhead compartment space being insufficient to accommodate all the passengers, I'm guessing it's helped their credit card business. 

- Rose

Dear Rose,

You have to request cardholder status when your boarding pass is issued in order to qualify for priority boarding privileges.

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Terms and conditions for your Chase United MileagePlus Explorer card state that "the primary card member and companions traveling on the same reservation are eligible for priority boarding," but adds: "To receive priority boarding, the primary card member must include their MileagePlus number in their reservation."

If you had done that, your membership would have come up in the code when it was scanned at the airport, thus qualifying you for the card's benefits. Even with a United Explorer card in your wallet, without the proper code on your ticket, you were just another passenger at the gate. It's not one of those card benefits you claim by flashing your card like a pass, unfortunately.

United uses five zones for boarding and the United MileagePlus Explorer, United MileagePlus Club, Presidential Plus, and United Awards cardholders board in Group 2, which actually makes you the third group to board -- after "pre-boarding" (passengers with disabilities, Global Services and uniformed military personnel) and Group 1 (Premier 1K, Premier Platinum and premium cabins). Since you didn't have card member status indicated on your boarding pass, you were considered part of the general boarding masses (groups 3 to 5).

Priority boarding is only available on United- and United Express-operated flights, not codeshare partner-operated flights. If you had included your MileagePlus number when the flight was reserved, you would have boarded right after Premier members.

By the way, your card's terms and conditions also state that: "Chase is not responsible for the provision of, or failure to provide, the stated benefits" and warn that it takes two weeks after opening an account for priority boarding to be available on your United reservation.

Editors note: Cathleen McCarthy is handing over the Cashing In reins to Tony Mecia. Please look for Tony's first Q&A on Dec. 17.  

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