Airline Military Boarding Policies: United, American, Delta, & More

14,542 grads of the Ultimate Military Credit Cards Course already know why
The Platinum Card® from American Express is my #1 recommended card

Military Money Manual has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the cards that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. This site does not include all card companies or all available card offers. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

When it comes to honoring the service of our active-duty military personnel, many U.S. airlines offer a variety of benefits.

One of these perks is priority boarding, allowing servicemembers to board the plane ahead of the general passengers. This recognition not only provides a more relaxed boarding experience for our servicemembers but also gives them the opportunity to secure their overhead luggage space conveniently.

Let's break down each airlines policies regarding early boarding.

But first, don't forget to check out the best airline credit cards for military families, most of which waive annual fees for active duty, Guard and Reserve on active orders, and military spouses under the Military Lending Act.

Before you fly, make sure you add TSA PreCheck to your ticket so you can breeze through security!

Anyone with a DOD ID gets TSA PreCheck for free. Military spouses can get free TSA PreCheck with the right credit card. There are also ways to get Global Entry for free if you are in the military or married to a military servicemember.

Chase Sapphire Reserve bonus

Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card
Learn how to apply on our partner's secure site

  • $550 annual fee waived to $0 for US military + spouses with Chase MLA policy
  • Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,125 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Travel℠
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through through Chase Travel℠ immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually.
  • 3x Points on other Travel (airfare, hotels) after earning the $300 travel credit
  • 3x Dining restaurants, takeouts, delivery
  • Chase Ultimate Reward Points redeemed through Chase Travel℠ are worth 1.5 cents, a 50% bonus.
  • Priority Pass lounge and restaurant access with over 1300+ airport lounges worldwide
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry every 4 years
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Primary coverage with Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • No foreign transaction fees, Member FDIC
  • Learn more in the Chase Sapphire Reserve review

American Airlines

American Airlines acknowledges the service of our active-duty military by allowing them to board in Group 1. This policy is the same for those flying in First class, ensuring that military personnel receive a premium boarding experience.

The American Airlines website states, “We welcome active-duty military with ID to board the plane in Group 1 along with our customers in First.”

Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard Military

Citi® AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®
Learn how to apply on our partner's secure site

  • Earn 70,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $7,000 in purchases in the first 3 months of account opening
  • Admirals Club® membership for you and access for up to two guests or immediate family members traveling with you
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
  • Earn 1 Loyalty Point for every 1 eligible AAdvantage® mile earned from purchases
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to 8 companions traveling with you on the same reservation

Southwest Military Boarding

Southwest Airlines has recently updated their military boarding policy to make the travel experience more streamlined for our servicemembers.

According to their website, “Southwest® is committed to making the military travel experience as easy as possible, in and out of uniform. That's why we're updating our military boarding policy to include out of uniform military travelers. Beginning September 22, 2022, we invite all active-duty military members with ID who did not receive an “A” boarding group to board between the A and B groups.”

This adjustment to their boarding policy is a strong statement of Southwest's commitment to making air travel more accessible and convenient for military personnel, even when they're not in uniform.

chase southwest rapid rewards priority credit card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
Learn how to apply on our partner's secure site

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • $149 annual fee waived for military and mil spouses
  • Earn 3x points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases
  • Earn 2x points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare
  • Earn 2X points on internet, cable, and phone services; select streaming.
  • 7,500 Anniversary points each year.
  • $75 annual Southwest travel credit
  • 4 Upgraded boardings per year
  • 25% back on in flight WiFi and drink purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Member FDIC

United Airlines

United Airlines offers an elevated boarding experience to active members of the military.

United's boarding policy states, “active members of the military” are invited to board before Group 1, in the pre-boarding group. This is the same status they afford Premier 1k members and United Global Services members, putting military personnel on the same level as their most frequent and premium travelers.

This preferential treatment is another way that airlines like United recognize the dedication and service of our military personnel.

Minot Airmen load onto a plane during a mass deployment at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., March 9, 2017.

United Club Infinite Card
Learn how to apply at our partner's secure site

  • Earn 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 4 miles per $1 spent on qualifying United® purchases
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on all other eligible travel and dining purchases with your card
  • Also earn 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Free first and second checked bags – a savings of up to $320 per roundtrip (terms apply) – and Premier Access® travel services
  • 10% United Economy Saver Award discount within the continental U.S. and Canada
  • You can earn up to 10,000 Premier qualifying points (25 PQP for every $500 you spend on purchases)
  • Member FDIC

Delta Airlines

Delta is another airline that offers priority boarding to military personnel. Active-duty service members on orders are invited to board with “Delta Comfort+” passengers, ensuring a more relaxed boarding experience.

It's worth noting that service members traveling for leisure may not receive the same benefit; however, the airline often makes exceptions on a case-by-case basis.

Also check out the best Delta credit cards for military and spouses.

AMEX Delta Reserve card free for US military

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
Learn how to apply on our partner's secure site

Annual Fee: $650 per year* *see more details on American Express protections for you and spouse

Welcome Bonus: Earn 60,000 Bonus Miles after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

  • This is my top recommended Amex Delta card for military
  • Enjoy the lounge life with complimentary access to the Delta Sky Club® and bring up to two guests or immediate family members at a rate of $50 per person per visit when flying Delta. Effective 2/1/25, Reserve Card Members will receive 15 Visits per year to the Delta Sky Club; to earn an unlimited number of Visits each year starting on 2/1/25, the total eligible purchases on the Card must equal $75,000 or more between 1/1/24 and 12/31/24, and each calendar year thereafter.
  • Flying with someone? Receive four Delta Sky Club® One-Time Guest Passes each year when you fly together on Delta. After that, you may bring up to two guests at a per-visit rate of $50 per person, per location.
  • When you book a Delta flight with your Reserve Card you'll get complimentary access to The Centurion® Lounge.
  • Want status? Earn $2,500 Medallion® Qualification Dollars each Medallion Qualification Year to get closer to Higher Status with MQD Headstart.
  • You can earn $1 Medallion® Qualification Dollar for each $10 of purchases made on your Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card in a calendar year giving you a boost toward achieving elevated Medallion Status for next Medallion Year.
  • Traveling with friends is better, especially in first class. Receive a Companion Certificate on First Class, Delta Comfort+®, or Main Cabin domestic, Caribbean, or Central American roundtrip flights each year after renewal of your Card. The Companion Ticket requires payment of government-imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights and no more than $250 for roundtrip international flights (both for itineraries with up to four flight segments). Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Make eating out easier with $240 Resy Credit: With the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card Resy Credit, earn up to $20 per month in statement credits on eligible Resy purchases using your enrolled Card.
  • Enjoy $120 Rideshare Credit: Earn up to $10 back in statement credits each month on U.S. rideshare purchases with select providers after you pay with your Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card. Enrollment Required.
  • Save 15% on travel as a Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express member by booking Award Travel using miles on Delta flights through Delta.com and the Fly Delta app! Discount not applicable to partner-operated flights or to taxes and fees.
  • Increase your chance for a better seat with your Card. Receive upgrade priority over other Medallion Members within the same Medallion level and fare class.
  • Get on the upgrade list! Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card Members with an eligible ticket will be added to the Complimentary Upgrade list, after Delta SkyMiles Medallion Members.
  • 3X Miles on Delta purchases.
  • 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Terms Apply.

JetBlue

JetBlue extends its gratitude towards the military by inviting them to board early, regardless of their travel class. This policy applies to all active-duty military members, enabling them to settle in and stow their baggage without the rush of general boarding.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines invites U.S. military personnel to pre-board flights. This benefit applies to active-duty members, their dependents, and military veterans. By allowing this group to board ahead of general boarding, Alaska Airlines recognizes the sacrifices made by those in service.

Spirit Airlines

Despite being a budget airline, Spirit does not shy away from expressing appreciation for the military. They offer active-duty military members priority check-in, security screening where available, and boarding, plus an allowance for free carry-on baggage.

The Origin of Preferred Boarding for Military

The priority boarding policies for military personnel took root after the terrible events of September 11, 2001. Following this day, there was a surge of nationalistic sentiment and renewed respect for the military across the United States.

Airlines, like many other businesses, sought ways to express their gratitude to those who serve. Priority boarding became a tangible perk that airlines could offer to ease the travel experience of active-duty servicemembers. While it is a small gesture in comparison to the sacrifices our servicemembers make, it is a public acknowledgment of their service and a sign of the airlines' respect and appreciation.

In conclusion, each airline has unique ways of expressing their gratitude towards active-duty military personnel. The common theme is a desire to acknowledge the commitment and sacrifices made by our servicemembers. While the exact details of each policy vary, the intent is clear – to honor those who serve.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.