Here’s how each airline determines boarding order

Group of people standing in queue at boarding gate

Airlines continually tweak the order in which they board passengers. They’ve tried everything from a free-for-all to window-seats-and-back-of-plane first, to random boarding. One airline has even tried boarding passengers without carry-on bags first, which makes sense since pausing to find overhead bin space jams up the boarding of everyone behind. JetBlue recently changed its boarding procedure, so it’s a good time to take a look at how the different U.S.-based airlines are getting passengers from gates to seats.

Why is this an issue? Overhead bin space. If you’re the last to board, then the chances increase that cabin crew will make you gate-check your carry-on bag as the bins get filled by those who boarded ahead of you.


Pre-boarding: Military; special needs; families with young children

First group: First class

Second group: Mileage Plan elites; anyone purchasing premium-class seating

Third group: Passengers sitting behind exit rows

Fourth group: Everyone else


Pre-boarding: Concierge key members; families with small children may pre-board upon request, see gate agent

First group: First class; active-duty U.S. military with military ID; Business Class on a two-class international aircraft

Second group: Executive Platinum; oneworld Emerald; Business Class on a three-class aircraft

Third group: Platinum; Platinum Pro; oneworld Sapphire credit card holders

Fourth group: Gold; oneworld Ruby; Alaska Airlines MVP members; AirPass; Premium Economy; Citi AAdvantage Executive card members customers who bought priority boarding

Fifth group: Main Cabin Extra; Eligible AAdvantage credit cardmembers; Eligible corporate travelers

Sixth group: Main cabin

Seventh group: Main cabin

Eighth group: Main cabin