How to Enter Shorter Airport Security Lines Without Elite Status, Flying in First Class or Credit Cards!

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Airport security lines often have long lines of people waiting to go through.

There are usually two lines – one line for folks who have elite status with airlines, or who are traveling in first or business class, or who need assistance. Usually your boarding pass is noted with “Priority Access” or “Premier Access” or something similar.

The other – usually longer -line is for regular folks who are traveling in coach.

In the US, I’ve been able to go through the airport elite status line just by showing a card – sometimes a regular frequent flyer card which I got for free just by signing up for a program –  to the agent manning the shorter elite lines!

Emily With Our Frequent Flyer Cards

Sometimes it is just a regular frequent flyer card for an obscure foreign airline which you can get for free, sometimes I show my Southwest Companion Pass card and get access to the shorter lines for Southwest business ticket holders and A-List members, and sometimes I show my American Airlines gold card and get access to the United (or other airline) elite lane!

Emily is usually with me when I’m traveling and gets to enter the elite line with me.  She’s always happy when we skip the longer lines!  The unwritten rule in my experience (or maybe it is written somewhere) is that only 1 person in a traveling family needs to have the elite access and the other members can get though.

This isn’t going to work all the time, but it has worked more than ~95% for me in the US.  As always, your experience will vary!

Some of you will be uncomfortable with this, so as always, do what you feel comfortable with.  Some of you will feel that elite status should be “earned” the hard way by flying, but you could say the same about regular frequent flyer miles.  Today, someone can earn more frequent flyer miles for applying for 2 credit cards than a frequent flyer would earn in an entire year of flying.

Why This Works

1.  Untrained Agents.   In the US, the agents standing at the shorter elite status lines are usually NOT airline employees.  They are often contract workers, paid the lowest possible wage with no benefits.

These agents appear to just check whether the name on your boarding pass matches the name on the card you show them.  They don’t check to see, for example, that you are showing them a Star Alliance elite status card if you are trying to enter the United (a Star Alliance airline) security line with a United boarding pass.

In my experience, any card which looks like a frequent flyer elite status card gets accepted in the US – particularly if it is from a foreign airline (which you can get for free by signing up for the airlines frequent flyer program).

Or they don’t check that you actually have a Southwest A-List card when trying to enter the shorter line for A-List and business select customers.  I’ve successfully used my Southwest Companion Pass card to get into these shorter lines.

This doesn’t work as well outside the US where the agents are paid more and better trained.

 2.  Lots of Different Airlines.   There are literally dozens of global airlines each with different elite status levels.  I’m pretty sure that many (most?) travel bloggers and airline managers wouldn’t be able to tell you ALL 27 Star Alliance member airlines, or ALL the 11 Oneworld alliance airlines & 20 affiliates without looking it up.

Add to that non-alliance airline partners and reciprocal status recognition and it is easy to see why you’re given the benefit of the doubt if you have a frequent flyer card by an untrained minimum wage worker at the airline elite security line.

3.  Inconsistency in Elite Cards.  Different airlines have different names and different colors for their elite status.  For example, the lowest level on American Airlines is Gold and the elite card is, well, gold colored.

Which Are The Real Airline Elite Cards?

The lowest elite level on Aegean Air is blue, and the elite card is blue colored.  United, Delta, and US Air have silver as their lowest level, and the card is silver color.  All this variability again means that showing the agent at the security line a card – almost any card usually means that you often can enter the shorter elite status line.

Bouncers in bars and TSA agents at check-posts usually have a book which lists the features of the different US state’s drivers license.  The airline agents at the elite security lines have nothing to help distinguish among the different airline elite status cards.

This isn’t a marketing blog, so I’ll spare you my thoughts on the poor job airline alliances do with marketing and branding.

4.  Be Polite, but Confident to the Agent.   The agent’s job is to ensure that folks don’t slip into the shorter elite status line.  Frequent travelers sometimes also ignore the agent and walk right pass the agent flashing their boarding pass.

I always make it a point to smile at the agent and show him or her my boarding pass and frequent flyer card as soon as possible.  After all, if I voluntarily slow down and present the cards and boarding pass to the agent, I must be qualified to use the shorter line, right?

The agent almost always cursorily matches the name on the boarding pass to the name on the ID and lets me enter the line.  Since I’m usually traveling with Emily, she gets to enter with me even though she doesn’t have a frequent flyer card with her!

If the agent asks why your boarding pass doesn’t say “Priority Access” or something similar, you can always say that you wanted to credit the miles to a different airline account or that the computer entered the wrong number (yes, this is a white lie, so do what you’re comfortable with) and you don’t have time to fix it.  For what its worth, I’ve never been asked this question

5.  Common Entrance.   Some airports have common entrances to different departing airlines.  For example, in Detroit most domestic airlines (except for Delta) depart from the North Terminal.  The sign just says “First Class Priority And Premium Only (sic).”  It doesn’t say that you have to have “priority” status for the airline you’re flying – just priority status in general.

Sign at Detroit Airport, North Terminal

So I’ve shown an American Airlines elite card with a Southwest boarding pass, or shown my Southwest Companion Pass with a United boarding pass and got through the shorter line!

Which Cards Should I Use & How Do I Get Them?

1.  Existing Elite Status Cards.  If you have an elite status card on any one airline, say American Airlines, you may be able to use it to get through the line when you’re traveling on United, or Southwest or US Air or a different airline (i.e your boarding pass is for a different airline than your elite status card).

My American Airlines Lifetime Gold Elite Card (It Doesn’t Say “Elite” Anywhere).

Note that that my American Airlines card doesn’t say “elite” status anywhere.  It just has a red oval at the bottom right which is supposed to indicate elite Oneworld ruby status or the lowest Oneworld status corresponding to American Airlines Gold elite status.  But I’ve used this card to get access to the United security line!

2.   Free Foreign Airline Frequent Flyer Cards.  Foreign airline cards (which you get just for signing up for a program) are often obscure enough that the staff at the elite security lines will just look at them and let you go.  Here are a few of my favorites:

a)   Asiana Silver

Anyone can sign-up for the Asiana Club program for free and get a free frequent flyer card.  Asiana is a Star Alliance airline whose US partners include United & US Air.  The card actually says “Silver” on it, so it is easy to understand why some agents think it equates to Silver “elite” status and let you go to the shorter line with the card.

My Asiana “Silver” Card

In reality, “Silver” is Asiana Club’s base membership level, but US airlines usually have “Silver” as the first tier of their elite program.  Also, there is a Star Alliance “Silver” elite level.  But with the Asiana card, you can honestly say “Here’s my Silver card and boarding pass!”

b)   ANA Mileage Club

Japanese Airline Al Nippon Airlines (ANA) will give you a silver colored card when you sign up for their mileage program.  ANA is a Star Alliance airline whose US partners include United & US Air.

Emily’s ANA Silver Colored Card

The card is silver colored and from a foreign airline, so you can always smile at the agent and truthfully say “Here’s my Star Alliance silver card and boarding pass” as you go through the shorter line!

c)   Iberia Plus Card

Iberia is a One World Alliance member whose US partner is American Airlines.  Iberia will send you an “Iberia Plus” card for free just for signing up for their program.

Iberia “Plus” Card

Now, Oneworld elite status is ruby, sapphire, or emerald but the “Plus”on the Iberia card sure sounds elite to a time-strapped and poorly trained US agent at the elite security line.

Compare this card to my American Airlines card (in #1 above) which doesn’t mention my elite status anywhere except for a red colored oval at the bottom of the card!

3.   Southwest Companion Pass

You get the Southwest Companion Pass after earning 110,000 Companion Pass qualifying points within 1 calendar year.  Many readers have got 100,000 of the 110,000 points needed for the Southwest Companion Pass by applying for 2 Southwest credit cards.

Our Southwest Companion Pass Gets Us In A-List Lines

However, Southwest doesn’t let Companion Pass holders use the shorter Business Select and “A-List” security lines at airports.

Southwest A List Priority Security Line

But, in my experience, I’ve shown my Southwest Companion Pass to the agent at the “A-List” line and got entry to the shorter security line.  Sometimes, I’ve even used it to get entry to the shorter security line at airports where there are common security lines for different airlines.

4.   Aegean Blue

Aegean is a Star Alliance airline whose US partners include United & US Air.

This is a “real” Star Alliance Silver elite card (despite being called “blue” elite level by Aegean).  However, it is really easy to earn since Aegean gives you blue elite status for earning just 4,000 elite miles compared to the 25,000 elite miles you’d need with United or US Air.

Can you quickly determine what is the true indication of Star Alliance Silver on this card?  Answer:  The “Silver” notation at the bottom right below the Star Alliance sign.

Aegean Blue Card Which is Actually Star Alliance Silver Elite Status

You currently get 2,000 Aegean elite miles when you sign up for an Aegean frequent flyer account, so you need only 2,000 more elite miles to get Aegean Blue or Star Alliance Silver Status. Star Alliance Silver status gets you 1 free bag on United and US Air and the ability to enter elite security lines at some (but not all) airports.

2,000 Aegean Miles for Signing Up

You can credit US Air, United or other Star Alliance flights to Aegean to get the remaining 2,000 miles.  US Air coach flights earn 100% of the flown miles, but most United coach discounted flights earn only 50% of the flown miles and some airlines don’t earn any miles on Aegean. Here’s a link to the miles earned when you credit a flight to Aegean.


No.  You still have to go through regular security at airports even when going through the elite security line (unless you have have TSA Pre).

Can I Use This to Board the Plane Early?

The gate agents are airline employees who actually do have a lot of experience, so this will not work as well (if at all) as using a frequent flyer card to get through to the elite security line.

However, you could try boarding with the elite status passengers (Star Gold or Silver, etc.), and smile and show the gate agent your frequent flyer card before she asks for it.  But it could be embarrassing if you’re not allowed through.

I also wouldn’t flash an American Airlines elite card when boarding a United flight, though a Star Alliance card mentioned above could be worth a try.

That said, I wouldn’t push my luck and try to board the plane early with a frequent flyer card or elite card from a different airline.

Bottom Line

This won’t work for everyone and not all the time, but I’ve had very good luck with using frequent flyer cards or other airline elite cards to get access to the shorter elite status security lines.

Keep in mind that the elite status security line isn’t always the shortest line, and always have a buffer in case you have to use the regular security line.

Emily always likes it when I flash a card and get her through the security line quicker than it otherwise would take.  We used our Southwest Companion Pass to get access to the shorter lines over Thanksgiving and it worked like a charm!

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246 responses to “How to Enter Shorter Airport Security Lines Without Elite Status, Flying in First Class or Credit Cards!

  1. lmao at %99 of the commenters… up on their high horses using words like “ethics,” “honesty,” and “inegrity.” they wouldn’t know ethics, honesty and integrity if it hit them in the face. they’ll use every lowball tactic in the books to get a few extra miles and points, including cheating, lying (lying doesn’t need to be face to face you numbskulls, writing you live in australia when you live in the usa is as much a lie as speaking to an airline rep to the face!), creating fake accounts for people that don’t exist, matching to offers they claim their friend got when they never knew about it until they read it in a blog, buying and returning…. the list is endless.

    so why the sudden up in arms over this post? it’s so obvious it’s laughable. for the first time you’ve presented a scheme which actually takes away from some of your readers; the few who actually earned elite status. until now it was okay taking, cheating, stealing and lying their way through everybody, even taking lawsuits to companies for what they knew was blatant and obvious mistakes that they over-exploited (and i’m sure got real working people fired in the process), but as soon as there’s a trick out there which might effect them… ooooh, mms must be a slimeball, this one is the real “lie,” all the other schemes,tricks and cheats were just “white lies.” LMFAO. that’s all i gotta say.

  2. Exactly Abe!

  3. This has gotta be the most intense debate I’ve seen on this blog…..Here’s a question for all of you. Tell me if what I did was wrong or not……. Last time I flew United (using an Economy ticket), I walked into the airport and stood at the end of the “regular” check in line. Probably 200 people there. An attendant walked over to me within 10 seconds of me getting to the back of the line and asked me and about four others to please check in over at the First class check in kiosk. (All of 3 people checking in there). The attendant told me they were doing this to help keep the regular line small. SURE! THANK YOU! I went and checked in at the First class kiosk. It printed up my economy boarding pass. I then went and stood in line at the (long) regular ticket security line up. The person who looks at your boarding pass and ID said “Sir, you’re supposed to be in that line (*points to the 1st class security line which was much shorter). There was NOTHING on my boarding pass that said anything about priority or premium or anything like that. But who am I to argue? So I went over and went through the faster security line. Was I wrong to do this? Should I have argued against this?

    Know those signs at grocery stores that say “Parking for parents with children?” Whenever my parents come down to visit me and we go shopping. I’ll park in that spot at the grocery store. 😀 I figure people who have young kids should park farther away anyways. Make them work that energy off in the parking lot so they’re not so rambunctious in the store.

    I think the hate towards Daraius is overblown. It’s not like he’s elbowing you in the face to get a new phone during Black Friday riots at Wal-Mart.

  4. bostondeallover

    Totally agree with Abe.
    I don’t agree with MMS this time, but those jerks who pretend to stand on a higher floor of ethics really sickens me!

  5. Completely agree, Abe.

    Love the person above who claims to have “manners” and “class” but calls people names and threatens violence. This thread is truly priceless.

  6. You frequent losers

    LMAO….these frequent flier loser crack me up. These are the same SOB’s that act like they deserve to take up all the overhead space because they’re “elite”, even though I paid the same price. These are the same clowns who feel they are entitled to be upgraded at every turn and will stand and obstruct other passengers boarding just to make their point. These losers have the gall to call you out and make derogatory comments about your wife; all the while spending an exorbinant amount of time “alone” on the road with their hands and electrical devices. Get a life….you never seemed to notice me skipping ahead of you in the security line with the elite status I didn’t earn before…did you???

  7. Dammit. I’m out of popcorn.

  8. @ArizonaGuy, there’s more free popcorn at the United lounge. DansDeals will teach you how to use your expired Platinum Amex card to gain access to it. (I’m not kidding!)

  9. Assuming I could get away with it, why shouldn’t I steal the wallet of the guy who cut in front of me in the airport line?

  10. @frankie yale: You should!!!! Just use the cash in there to pay for your next plane trip. If you keep stealing the wallet of the person in front of you in line, you will get free airline travel for life, it is almost like the Perpetual Motion Machine that Frequent Miler has always been looking for. Expect a step by step spoonfeeding blog post soon from MMS disecting exactly how to pull this off wallet theft off without being detected. 😉

  11. I don’t like Indians, especially when they are as dirty as you are. INdians are so pompous and smelly. They think they are smart but actually are just a bunch of dirt eating scumbags. They are always trying to get ahead through cheating as this post shows. Look at all these INdian MBAs getting busted for cheating (that fatso Raj from the hedge fund, Rajat Gupta, that fag over at Mckinsey). Down with India, go China!!!

  12. nsx at

    This technique made me think of people who advocate going to the store before Thanksgiving and hiding items which will be on sale Friday. It cheats the people who are playing by the rules.

    In my opinion Southwest should change its policy to allow Companion Pass holders who have legitimate Fly By Lane access to bring their actual companions along. Attempting to use your Companion Pass solo as a Fly By access card makes this important policy change less likely to happen.

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  14. @BlueCat – Wait. I know how to use an expired Plat Amex to access US Clubs but since it never gets anyone into a UA Club I’ve no idea how that’s even possible, expired or not.

  15. I’m a Premier Gold member on United. That means I’ve flown over 50,000 miles this year alone on the same Airline. Commitment. As a reward for this commitment, I am allowed to use the faster, shorter security line. But have you ever wondered why it is faster? Maybe because people who fly frequently (yes, to qualify for Premier on United, you have to actually FLY the minimum number of miles or segments – my United Credit Cards don’t help me one bit) know how to efficiently move through the security line.

    Anyway, I was at LAX a few days ago and my company sent me on a US Airways flight. As I was standing in the unusually long (and slow) line, I started thinking “How can I convince them to let me go through the Premier line that US Airways has set up. After all, I am Premier on their partner’s Airline. I had not it Premier Gold status until after the leg I was standing in line for, and there was no way they would let me in that line, period. So I started thinking about ways to sneak into the line.

    I guess that makes me no better than anyone else who wants to jump a line to get out of the current slow situation.

    That said, I still find it annoying that people who are not frequent flyers on ANY airline would cheat their way to the faster line set aside for those who have earned it (yes, earned – because flying 25,000+ miles in a single year is not easy, especially when you have a family). I don’t find it annoying because of questionable ethics. I find it annoying because the inexperienced flyers (not Airline Hoppers, but the truly inexperienced) will hold up the line. You can defend yourself and say it’s not true, but as a frequent flyer, I’ve spent enough time in the security lines over the years to kindly call BS. Get enough of those in the line and it’s sure to slow down for everyone.

  16. People, people… Let this man alone. I think he knows that what he is doing is NOT right, if not he will a have a hint from now on, and something tells me he knows what Karma is. So if he keeps on this path someone (or several) one day will give him a lfetime status to go thru “priority line” on a Wheelchair!!!

  17. I received my Asiana Silver card in the mail and was so excited to use it this past weekend. On both the outbound and return, there were dedicated elite security lines but no one monitoring them. In both cases, the elite lines skipped ahead of the general passengers but then merged into the general line right before the TSA podium. I never had to show any elite card.

    So while I was disappointed that I didn’t get to use my Silver card, I was mad at myself because all these years I could have skipped the line with no card at all.

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  19. Hey, that’s one less RSS subscriber for you. There is a line.

    Blatantly lying at the expense of other people’s precious time, is past the line.

  20. Darius,

    It is my understanding that AA gold status allows access to any elite security line, even if you are not flying on an AA or Oneworld flight, so using your AA gold card is actually a legitimate way to enter the elite line. It’s in the T&C.

  21. MMS, you just lost all of my respect. I can’t believe you thought this post was a good idea. this has to be the worst blog out there…

  22. As if the constant credit card pimping were not enough, now we have this ridiculous post about faking your way to the front of the security line. That’s low. It’s such a shame that these so-called travel hackers are more interested in generating high hit counts (aka more ad/sponsor revenue or card referral fees) that creating anything remotely of substance.

    This blog continues to lower the bar. Maybe the author needs one of those Matthew Lesko-style wacky question-mark suits.

  23. @Kyle. No, AA T&Cs do not give Priority Access. What happened was when boarding passes were printed for those with the AA card, it was incorrectly programmed to allow PA. That mistake has been rectified and those with the cheesy AA card will have to wait in line with all the rest. FWIW, I have the AA card – but only for the easy churn

  24. Nice trick keep it to yourself and delete this article if you want it to continue working. You wonder why great deals disappear.

    Benjamin Franklin realized modesty can only be achieved by not becoming noticed for ones modest characters.

    We all want to be fawned over but all you did is piss a bunch of people off who deserve to be pissed.

  25. This entire response is quite entertaining. A lot of people have attached the person rather than the idea. Truly pathetic.

    I assume all of us who read this blog are here to “game” the system in some way. We get way too many credit cards for intentions other than the bank is issuing it for. We often tell the bank that I need the card to keep expenses separate etc. which is a white lie. The banks are not white knights so we ignore that issue.

    We Americans almost exterminated the native american race. That’s why they call us victorious and successful people. What Daraius is doing is no different. And the impact is so miniscule that I wouldn’t even bother with such passionate responses.

    The techniques are quite interesting though. I’ll have to try. I am star gold through many hours (or is it days) of flying. I am not enraged by this post. I always have my headphones on with an audiobook so those extra few minutes in the line don’t make any difference to me. Everybody else is on their phones reading or doing something.. I doubt this makes much of a difference anyway.

  26. Oh BTW Daraius, please keep up the good work.. stealing, lying and deceit is one of the primary reasons for the greatness of our America. You are a true American and a lot of us are counting on you to shower us with such tricks.

  27. Pingback: Using Elite Security Lines When You Aren't Entitled to Do So - View from the Wing - View from the Wing

  28. Daraius, as a fellow Parsee I am ashamed of this. Showing a card that you know is not valid, based on the premise that the worker is untrained, is like showing an old ticket at the movie theater. It is nothing short of theft. There was a day when Parsees were respected as the most honest and ethical businessmen in India. They had a well-deserved reputation for doing the right thing, being fair to all, and placing their morals above money. You have not only disgraced yourself but the entire Parsee community.

  29. Pingback: How to Skip the Regular Airport Security Line and Get on the Elite One | Enjoying The Moment

  30. To paraphrase the illustrious Beatles, “Look at all the jealous people”. Jealous because they don’t have the nads to use the chinks in the system.

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  33. haha the debate on this post is the biggest joke I’ve ever seen. Your all arguing about security lines at the airport. hahahaha.

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  39. ‘Theft’ – ‘taking what dosen’t belong’ – get real – from who?

    I drive the same journey on a regular basis and have to queue at certain points – so using the holier-than-thou argument used here “That because I do the journey regularly – I have earned the privilege to drive down the outside of any tail-back and cut-in without any protest” – wow – can you imagine! So by what god given right should this apply to frequent fliers who do just that via the elite lane.

    Would I use the elite lane? – you betcha – its all part of playing the game!
    Should there be an elite lane? – NO – not when they merge with regular lines – be satisfied with privilege lounges and their treats!

    @Steve (Nov 29, 2012 at 11:03 pm) – “I actually did some IP tracing….” To do that you would need access to the blog server – so you are either a blatant liar or an illegal hacker. My money is on the former because you are using it to throw mud hoping that some sticks – but what it really it shows is your ignorance.

  40. While I generally don’t like bloggers to censor comments, I see no reason why I should have to see racist and bigoted comments like those from ‘sheldon cooper’ and ‘Dear MMS’. Please consider deleting or blocking them.

    The difference is that forging is generally a crime, whereas this trick relies on the incompetence of minimum-wage workers to recognize pieces of plastic. One is a crime of commission, one is omission.

    For the person who suggested that this be reported to TSA / DHS etc, I need a rolleyes emoticon. First, no one is suggesting using a false identity. MMS is suggesting waving a perfectly legitimate and truthful piece of plastic in front of an employees nose. The only ‘crime’ is hoping that the clerk will not realize that piece of plastic is not sufficient for access to the line.

    Further, outside of pre-check, the TSA literally has zero jurisdiction or concern over which line you take to arrive at the checkpoint. In fact, it would be terrible if the government could discriminate which taxpayers got more rapid service based on the fact that they choose to do business with certain companies.

    Although in effect, the TSA is entirely complicit with the elite system, it occurs through an elaborate fiction. The elite lines are completely controlled by the airport authority and/or the airlines, and the TSA alternates systematically taking the first person/family from each line. The concept is that TSA cannot control who goes into what line, but once you get to the front of the line, everyone gets ‘equal’ government service. N’est-ce pas?

    I would hope that some sort of fear of embarrassment if they do get caught, or sense of indecency, would keep people from using this trick. But there will always be the @$$hole who drives single in the HOV lane to get through traffic faster. Because he’s more important than everyone who plays by the rules.

    It’s really shabby that someone in a public forum would encourage this behavior, and the most we can hope for is to see a few of them get caught.

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  42. This is not the same as a person who drives in the HOV lane illegally or even the paid HOV lane combo. That money goes to the government. The airlines should not regulate my access to TSA, its wrong and should be illegal. I go personally go through the 1st class security line and ensure that they know I do not have a first class ticket. They object, but also won’t fully prevent you going through. It can be uncomfortable, but airlines are doing something wrong, and I personally won’t stand for it.

  43. I have done this for awhile and it works just fine. I have no problem using the shortest line available. Generally speaking, I just go through the First Class line and show my boarding pass on my phone and carry on. It is not that big of a deal. Who has time to wait in lines? Even when there is a person verifying status, it is very simply to smile and show almost any card and go right through. Sometimes I have to slip her a $10 bill and I go through.
    So many people have their panties in an uproar, when in reality, nobody really cares.

  44. First off, THANK YOU I love this article and is very helpful!!! I just went to try for Asiana and their site was hacked…sooooo I would be VERY careful with Asiana Airlines. They get hacked frequently including right this very moment it has been hacked by some group. And I read an article just back in 2016 customer data was all leaked and put up online. Just google Asiana hacked to verify and make your own choice if you submit info with them. It is a shame because their card looks the BEST!