Alaska Airlines Boarding Groups Guide [2020]

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In 2018, Alaska Airlines decided to change its boarding policy in favor of something more simplistic. The new policy changed the labels for boarding groups and made a few other tweaks. In this article, I will tell you everything that you need to know about Alaska Airlines boarding groups and exactly what to expect with the current boarding policy.

Full list of Alaska Airlines boarding groups

The Alaska Airlines boarding groups include:

  • Pre-boarding (Military, disabilities, unaccompanied minors, etc.)
  • First class
  • Group A (Million Milers, MVP Gold, and MVP Gold 75K)
  • Group B (MVP members and guests in Premium Class seats)
  • Group C (Main cabin in the back)
  • Group D (Main cabin in the front)
  • Group E (Saver)

I will go into more detail about each of these groups below.

How does Alaska Airlines boarding work?

The boarding process for Alaska Airlines is very similar to most other airlines, and I will break it all down below.

First, let’s start with choosing your seat.

After you input your personal details and making a booking, you should be prompted to select your seat. (In some cases the seat map may not be available.) The seat that you choose to select could end up affecting your boarding group and I will talk more about that below.

The next step is checking in at the airport.

Generally, for domestic flights, you want to arrive at least an hour before your flight’s boarding time if you’re not checking in bags and at least 90 minutes prior to your flight’s boarding time if you are checking bags (for inexperienced travelers, arriving two hours before departure is the standard). 

If you are an experienced traveler or are familiar with the airport and wait times of course you can arrive even later than the recommended times especially if you have TSA Pre-Check and/or CLEAR.  

Personally, I like to arrive at the airport extra early to give me the least stressful experiences as possible. It also makes it easier to enjoy airport lounges such as Alaska Lounges.

After you check in, you will have a paper boarding pass or you may have pulled up your boarding pass on the Alaska Airlines mobile app.

Personally, I like to have both a paper and a digital boarding pass. That way, if I lose the paper pass I have a digital copy of it and if my phone malfunctions or freezes up, I have a paper pass I can pull out.

If you have an issue with your boarding pass at the time of boarding, you will have to be pulled aside and you could lose your overhead storage bin space so it’s a good idea to have a back up plan.

Here’s what the boarding pass will look like compared to how the old boarding passes looked.

New Alaska boarding pass compared to old
Comparison of new boarding pass with old.

Alaska Airlines states that they want you to arrive at the gate 40 minutes prior to departure so that should be your goal at a minimum.

If you want to know your estimated boarding time, you should be able to find this on your boarding pass as shown above.

Just be aware that the departure time is subject to change, so make sure that you always verify the departure time with what is displayed on the flight monitors.

Boarding times may change depending on the route and aircraft and other factors at play but generally you can expect the boarding process to be announced around 30 to 40 minutes prior to departure.

This is not officially when boarding begins but this would be a good time to get ready to head over to the gate if you were not already there. As Alaska states, “This is your cue to gather your things and be ready, but you don’t need to move to line up.”

At about 30 minutes prior to departure, that’s when you can expect the pre-boarding to begin. And then, each group will be called up successively, possibly in five minute increments although it depends on how quickly or slowly passengers are processed.

Once you arrive at the gate and it is time for boarding, simply pay attention to the signs and they will guide you through the boarding process.

First, make sure that the sign contains your exact flight information such as your flight number and route.

Then just take a look at the left side of the screen. This will tell you the group that is now boarding. On the right side of that, you will see checkmarks for other groups that have boarded and that are currently boarding. If you belong to one of those groups that have already boarded, you should be allowed to board at that time.

Some signs may not show the now boarding group on the left and in those cases just look for the green checkmarks to see what groups are currently boarding or that have boarded.

Alaska Airlines boarding sign.

Boarding groups explained

Alaska Airlines has a reputation for not strictly enforcing boarding groups. This has allowed people to board ahead of their designated boarding groups which sounds great except that it can lead to a disorderly process.

Therefore, I would advise our passengers to try to follow the published boarding group guidelines as much as you can simply to avoid confusion.

Pre-boarding

Unaccompanied minors

Unaccompanied minors are children who are 5-12 years old and traveling without a parent, legal guardian or someone who is at least 18 years old. There are special rules regarding traveling as an unaccompanied minor and you can read more about those here. 

Customers with disabilities

If you have a visible disability (such as being in a wheel chair, on crutches, etc.), you will be able to board without questions. However, if your disability is not readily apparent it may be a good idea to verify with the gate agent that you can still get pre-boarding.

 Related: Guide to Visiting Airports & Flying with Vision Impairments.

Active members of the military

Alaska Airlines will allow active members of the military to board during pre-boarding. On occasion priority boarding has also been offered to retired military members although that is a special scenario that may be tied to special occasions such as Veterans Day.

Related: Check out all of the benefits military members can take advantage of when flying.  

First class

If you are flying first class on Alaska Airlines then you can expect to be the first to board right after pre-boarding.

Don’t forget, first class passengers get other perks like free checked baggage.

Group A (Million Milers, MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K)

Group A will consist of the two top levels of elite status which include Million Milers, MVP Gold, and MVP Gold 75K.

If you are wondering about the requirements for obtaining elite status with Alaska Airlines here are the requirements:

Elite LevelAlaska MilesPartner MilesSegments
Alaska MVP20,000 miles25,000 miles30
MVP Gold40,000 miles50,000 miles60
MVP Gold 75K75,000 miles90,000 miles90
Alaska elite status level requirements.

If you are boarding with a partner or spouse who does not have elite status and therefore has a lower boarding group, many times they can board with you. It’s not an official policy but there are many reports of elite members pulling their partners along to board with them even when their partners have a lower boarding group.

Just try to do this within reason.

If you have an entire group of people with you then you are much more likely to cause an issue. This is even true if everybody is on the same itinerary.

By the way if you’ve earned a lot of Alaska miles and need some ideas on how to best redeem them be sure to check out our best uses of Alaska Airline miles.

Group B (MVP members and guests in Premium Class seats)

If you are on the lowest level of elite status known as MVP, you will board with Group B.

Also, those individuals in Premium Class seats get to board with Group B.

Group C (Main cabin in the back)

If you are flying economy and your seat is towards the back of the plane then you will board in Group C.

Where exactly the “cut off” is for seats in the back depends on the type of aircraft you are flying on since some aircraft will have many more rows of seats. But if you are trying to get into Group C, I would recommend choosing a seat beyond the emergency exit rows, beginning around row 20. If you really want to be on the safe side, you could go even further with a seat around row 25.

Group D (Main cabin in the front)

If you are flying economy and your seat is towards the front of the plane then you will board in Group D.

Group E (Saver)

The final passengers to board the plane will always be those who have purchased saver fares. These are the cheapest type of tickets available on Alaska Airlines.

Keep in mind that if you purchase a saver fare, you may not be able to select your seat. So if you are flying with other individuals and you want to sit together, this is not a great ticket good.

Alaska Airlines boarding groups FAQ

What is the order of boarding groups for Alaska Airlines?

Alaska Airlines will board in the following order:

  • Pre-boarding (Military, disabilities, unaccompanied minors, etc.)
  • First class
  • Group A (Million Milers, MVP Gold, and MVP Gold 75K)
  • Group B (MVP members and guests in Premium Class seats)
  • Group C (Main cabin in the back)
  • Group D (Main cabin in the front)
  • Group E (Saver)

How many boarding groups are there?

There are a total of seven boarding groups if you include pre-boarding and first class.

Where can I find my boarding group?

You can easily locate your boarding group on your boarding pass. See the image above for details.

Who qualifies for pre-boarding?

Different groups may qualify for pre-boarding including active military members, those with disabilities, and unaccompanied minors.

What if I don’t get the right boarding group?

There have been reports of apparent glitches in the boarding group issuance process. If you are given a boarding group that does not correspond to your elite level status simply call Alaska Airlines or meet with an agent at one of the counters to fix the issue.

What is the Alaska Airlines boarding music?

Alaska Airlines will play music during the boarding process but the tunes are always changing. You can find their latest playlists here.

Does the Alaska Airlines Visa Credit Card offer priority boarding?

No, the Alaska Airlines Visa Credit Card does not offer you priority boarding but it does offer some other perks.

Does Alaska board from both doors?

If you are flying on regional flights (such as with Horizon Air) then your flight may be boarded from doors located at the front and back of the plane. This typically will not be used for 737s.

Do Portland Timbers fans get priority boarding?

Portland Timbers fans can still get priority boarding but only at Portland International Airport (PDX) when wearing Timbers jerseys or gear. Some have even commented that a simple scarf can work. Read more here.

How does Alaska Airlines coronavirus boarding work?

Alaska Airlines states: “To better allow for personal distancing, boarding procedures have been updated so guests board by row numbers in smaller groups from the back to the front.”

Since Alaska already boarded from the back this is not a huge change but they will be segmenting groups into smaller groups now.

If you have priority boarding and would like to board first, speak with an agent about doing so since some agents may not call priority boarding first.

Final word

As you can tell, the boarding policy is very simple and straightforward for Alaska Airlines. It seems like Alaska is pretty lax when it comes to allowing others to board with you when you have a higher boarding pass so that is something to keep in mind. And while gate agents me be lax on the order of the boarding groups, it’s a good idea to follow the boarding procedures as closely as possible.

Cover Photo: Tomás Del Coro via Flickr.

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