Airline Boarding Groups: The Master List

When you check in for a flight, either by printing a boarding pass on your computer or by using a mobile device, you’re provided with a boarding group. This lets you know when you’ll be getting on the plane. Getting  group 3 on one airline might be great but could be terrible for another airline.

Regardless of that number, just know you’re not getting on the plane when the boarding process starts unless you’re a super elite frequent flyer or a disabled passenger in a wheelchair. The passengers with some sort of loyalty with the airline or one of their partners and the passengers who paid for first class will go next. Why not stay seated until your group (or at least the one right before it is called) cause you’re gonna have a long wait just to have your ticket scanned and all you’re going to is stand on the jet bridge for a while before getting on the plane.

Just be patient and don’t be like the people in this video from JetBlue



Listed in the order of  total number of passengers carried, here are the boarding orders for U.S. Airlines.

American Airlines 

By Piergiuliano Chesi [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Customers who need special assistance and families with children under 2 can ask to board early at the gate.

  • ConciergeKey members
  • Group 1
    • First
    • Active duty U.S. Military with military I.D.
    • (Business on a 2-class international plane)
  • Group 2
    • Executive Platinum
    • oneworld Emerald
    • (Business on a 3-class plane)
  • Group 3
    • Platinum Pro
    • Platinum
    • oneworld Sapphire
  • Group 4
    • Gold
    • oneworld Ruby
    • AirPass
    • Premium Economy
    • Citi/Aadvantage Executive cardmembers
    • Travelers who bought Priority boarding
  • Group 5 (Preferred Boarding)
    • Main Cabin Extra (excluding Basic Economy)
    • Eligible Aadvantage credit cardmembers
    • Eligible corporate travelers
  • Group 6
  • Group 7
  • Group 8
    • Basic Economy to/from Europe
  • Group 9
    • Basic Economy within the U.S. Canada, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean

Delta Airlines

  • Pre-Boarding
    • Customers needing assistance or additional time to board, including families with car seats or strollers
    • Active duty U.S. Military with military I.D.
  • Premium Boarding Zone
    • Delta One customers
    • First Class customers
    • Delta Premium Select customers
    • Diamond Medallion members
  • Sky Priority Boarding Zone
    • Platinum Medallion members
    • Gold Medallion members
    • Delta Comfort+ customers
    • Flying Blue Platinum and Gold members
    • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Gold members
    • Virgin Australia Platinum and Gold members
    • GOL Smiles Diamond members
    • SkyTeam Elite Plus members
  • Zone 1
    • Silver Medallion Members
    • Delta Corporate Travelers
    • Priority Boarding Trip Extra customers
    • Gold, Platinum and Reserve Delta SkyMiles credit card members
    • Flying Blue Silver members
    • Virgin Australia Velocity Silver members
    • GOL Smiles Gold members
    • SkyTeam Elite
  • Zone 2
    • Main Cabin Passengers
  • Zone 3
    • Main Cabin Passengers booked in T, X and V fares
  • Zone 4
    • Basic Economy Passengers (E)



There are only a few extra things they didn’t mention in the video.

  • Boarding positions A1-A15 are reserved for those paying Business Select fares. You can also pay from $30 to $50 for one of those spots at the gate, if there are any left. Cardholders of the Southwest Priority Card can have their upgrade fee reimbursed four times a year.
  • Southwest A-List Members are assigned a check in position 36 hours in advance.
  • For other passengers, your boarding position is based on when you check in. If you want a better place in line, you have to pay for Early Bird.
  • If an A-list member purchases or changes a ticket less than 36 hours before a flight and receives Boarding Group B or C, they can board the plane between the A and B boarding groups.
  • Children age six or younger and ONE guardian may board between the A and B boarding groups.


  • Pre-boarding
    • Unaccompanied minors
    • Customers with disabilities
    • Active members of the military
    • United Global Services members
    • Families traveling with children age 2 and younger
    • Premier 1K members
  • Group 1
    • Premier Platinum members
    • Premier Gold members
    • Star Alliance Gold members
    • Customers seated in premium cabins: United Polaris, United First and United Business
  • Group 2
    • Premier Silver members
    • Star Alliance Silver members
    • Customers who have purchased Premier Access® or Priority Boarding
    • United Explorer, Club, Presidential Plus and Awards Cardmembers
  • Group 3-5
    • Economy Plus
    • United Economy
    • Basic Economy

Customers who purchased a Basic Economy ticket will be in the last boarding group, except for Premier members, Chase Cardmembers of qualifying cards and Star Alliance Gold members, who will still receive their priority boarding.


Screen Shot 2018-10-30 at 9.01.05 PM

  • Preboarding
    • Guests with disabilities who need help or a little more time to board
    • Families with children under the age of 2
    • Active Members of the military
  • First Class
    • Guests seated in First Class (if there is no first class seats on the plane, boarding will begin with Group A)
  • Group A
    • Mileage Plan Million Miler, MVP Gold 75K and MVP Gold members
  • Group B
    • Mileage Plan MVP members
    • Guests in Premium Class seats
  • Group C
    • Remaining guests seated in the back half of the aircraft
  • Group D
    • Remaining guests seated in the front half of the aircraft


  • Pre-Boarding
    • Customers with disabilities
  • Mosaic and Mint customers
  • Group A
    • Even More Space Customers
  • Courtesy boarding
    • Active military personnel
    • customers traveling with children in car seats or strollers
  • Group B
  • Group C
  • Group D
  • Group E
  • All remaining customers


I can’t find anything on the Spirit website about the boarding process. From what I can tell from online, the more you pay, the earlier you board. Just like everything about Spirit, you need to know what you’re getting yourself info before buying a ticket.

  • Pre-Boarding
    • Unaccompanied minors
    • Passengers needing extra time to board
  • First Group
    • Passengers in the “Big Front Seat” section
  • Second Group
    • Holders of the Spirit MasterCard
    • Passengers who buy “Shortcut Boarding”
    • Passengers who have paid for a carry-on bag
  • Third Group
    • Passengers sitting in rows at the rear of the plane
  • Fourth Group
    • Everyone else


  • Special Services
    • Anyone needing wheelchair or other boarding assistance
    • Unaccompanied minors
  • Zone 1 Boarding
    • Elite myFrontier Miles members
    • Purchase a carry-on bag
    • Purchase the WORKS package
  • Courtesy Boarding
    • Families traveling with small children under 3 and any other passenger requiring special assistance.
  • Everyone else


  • Pre-boarding
    • Guests needing assistance
    • Families with children under 2
    • Unaccompanied minors
  • Zone 1
    • First Class
    • Business Class
    • Pualani Platinum Members
    • Military personnel in uniform
  • Zone 2
    • Extra Comfort seats
    • Preferred Seats
    • Pulalani Gold Members
    • Premier Club Members
  • Zones 3, 4 and 5
    • General boarding, beginning with the rear of the plane.

Pualani Platinum, Pualani Gold and Premier Club members may be joined in the boarding line by two guests.

If your boarding pass does not have a boarding group, you can board with zone 3.

Final Thoughts

So there it is, the order in which all the US airlines board their planes. That is, until of the airlines changes their process next week. If one thing is sure, it’s that some airline will decide that THEY have figured out the best way to load a plane the quickest.

In my experience, airlines that don’t charge excessive fees for bags, like Southwest, or the ones who charge for all bags, like Spirit and Frontier, have the quickest boarding times. If the airline is checking every carry on bag at the gate to see if it’s the correct size (HI THERE, AMERICAN!!!!), it’s going to take a long time to get on the plane.

No matter what you do, please don’t stand up and block the path to the plane as soon as the boarding starts. We have a name for you, and it’s not a nice one.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

Featured Image courtesy Grant Wickes






4 thoughts on “Airline Boarding Groups: The Master List”

    1. I didn’t include them because of their limited route map. Since I called the article a “master list”, I went and added them.

  1. One additional comment on Southwest. A-List members can also board between A and B if they did not get a A boarding pass. For example I booked a Southwest flight 3 hrs before it left and got a C boarding position but was able to go after the As since I was A-List.

    1. Thank’s Mark. That’s not something they actively publish on the Southwest website. I’ve updated the article accordingly.

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