Delta Airlines Lost & Found Guide [2023]

Losing an item on a plane or in an airport can be a nightmare. I know this from personal experience.

But thankfully, airlines and airports have pretty sophisticated lost and found services. Many people are reunited with the lost items every day so if you lost something when flying Delta Airlines, don’t lose hope.

Below, I’ll outline all of the steps you can take to recover something lost on Delta Airlines including how to timely file a claim and how to optimize your chances of getting your item recovered.

The immediate step: get to the Delta Airlines gate

If the de-planing has started and you realize that you have a lost item while you are still on a Delta Airlines plane, then just try to be calm and search around your seat while everyone exits.

Eventually, as the passengers exit, a flight attendant will probably approach you to see what’s going on and you can let them know that you have a lost item.

They might be able to help search for you right there but depending on the flight schedule, you might also be ushered out quickly.

If you have already entered the airport from your arrival, and you realize that you have a lost item then you should try to go directly to the Delta arrival gate.

If there is a line for the gate agent, feel free to jump (politely) to the front of the line and just let the agent know that you have something urgent.

Let them know about your lost item and where you were seated and they might be able to get some crew members to help.

If nobody is attending at the desk then you might be able to catch crew members entering the terminal from the jet bridge.

Unless they have somewhere to promptly be, you’ll be surprised how helpful crew members can be in these type of situations.

Past the sterile area

Every airport has a sterile area.

This is the part of the airport that is past security and it means that everyone wandering through those corridors has undergone some type of security screening.

Once you leave the sterile area, you cannot re-enter the sterile area unless you go back through security to make sure that you are in compliance with the TSA rules.

You should always see a sign marking the sterile area as you head towards the baggage claim section of the airport. (it might look like something from the image below.)

If you have already exited the sterile area then you’re not going to be able to get back to the gates unless somehow you were able to get through security which is unlikely as well.

Therefore, your best bet will be to locate a Delta Airlines help desk. Some airports, especially Delta hubs, may have a few Delta help desk’s located in different parts of the airport.

But most likely if you have already exited the sterile area, your best option will be to go to a Delta Airlines desk at baggage claim.

Typically these agents deal with lost luggage but on occasion they can also help you out for your personal lost items.

In one scenario, I recall a passenger even got an agent working the baggage claim desk to radio to agents sweeping the plane.

They were soon reunited with their lost item at baggage claim which is one reason why I always recommend for people to give this method a try.

Related: Delta Air Lines Boarding Policy Guide

airport sterile area

Items left at the TSA Security Checkpoint

If you think that you may have left your items at the TSA security checkpoint then your priority should be to get in contact with the Lost and Found for TSA.

TSA has its own Lost and Found department at all US airports and you can find the contact details for the relevant one here.

This is a separate lost and found department that is distinct from Delta Airlines and from the airport.

If they don’t have any record of your item, then it’s possible that item could’ve been referred to the airport’s lost and found so don’t lose out all hope until you check with them.

Related: What Happens if Your Item Is Not Allowed Through TSA Security? Can You Get It Back?

For items lost in and around the airport facility

What about if you suspect that you left your item sitting around the airport terminal?

For example, maybe you were at ATL and you left your phone sitting on a bench somewhere in the airport? Or perhaps, you suspect that you may have left your last item in a bathroom at SLC or MSP.

If you think that you may have left your item somewhere in the airport then you want to check with the specific lost and found department at that airport.

Head to an information desk and ask them where the airport’s lost and found counter is and that will be the easiest way to find them.

Sometimes the lost and found works in partnership with the airport police so you might also find a desk where you’ll find the police.

Airports also will have a dedicated webpage for their lost and found.

You might be able to submit a claim or simply find an email or phone number that could be helpful. I always prefer to handle these things via email so that you have a paper trail of what went on in your discussion.

If you left something in a Delta Sky Club airport lounge then try to contact Delta ASAP. You could also contact the airport and see if they can transfer you to the lounge.

See if they can get you in touch with someone at the lounge and give them all the details you can such as what time you were in the lounge and where you were seated.

Related: Delta Airlines Baggage Fees Guide

What if you have left the airport?

Okay, now let’s say that you have already left the airport. Maybe you were taking an Uber back to your hotel or you are already back home when you realize that you have a lost item.

If this happens to you then you can immediately call the airport or Delta and see if anything can be done.

But there’s a good chance that you’re going to have to just file your claim online in order to proceed with recovering your lost item.

How to file a Delta lost and found claim online

Like other airlines such as JetBlue, Delta Airlines utilizes nettracer to process lost and found claims.

To file a lost and found claim for Delta Airlines click here.

Make sure that you select you are looking for an item that was NOT lost in your checked baggage to begin your claim.

Filing the claim is a very simple three step process but you don’t want to rush through the steps because detail is as important as ever when resolving these claims.

Also, keep in mind that you really want to file a report within seven days of your item being lost to increase your odds of it getting recovered.

The first section is going to ask you to describe your item. You’ll select an appropriate category and provide details like the item color, case color, brand, model, and item size.

If you have the serial number on hand or some other type of unique ID number you definitely want to input it here.

Finally, there will be a box you can fill in that asks you to describe what makes your item unique.

Once again, think of anything that you can that could possibly allow your lost item to stand out such as any scratches, stickers, screen cracks, etc.

The more detail that you supply, the more your claim will catch the eye of someone working on your file which will likely increase the odds of it being found.

After you input all of your item information, you then need to input some contact details and also details related to your itineraries.

After you file your claim, you should receive a confirmation email about your claim. If for some reason it does not appear then be sure to check your spam box.

If they find an item that matches the description of your lost item, you will receive an email notification or a phone call with further instructions on what to do.

For example, they may ask you further questions to confirm that you are the true owner of the lost item.

In some cases, they might ask you to call your phone which is why it’s recommended to leave your call service activated on your phone for at least one week after you file your claim. (You may want to deactivate any associated data plans.)

If you can verify ownership then they will arrange for shipping the item to you and you will be responsible for paying for the shipping costs which can be paid with a credit card.

The search efforts will take place for approximately 30 days after they receive your lost item report.

If no item is ever recovered that matches your description then you should receive an email stating that they were unsuccessful and that the search is over for your item.

Items that are never recovered may be destroyed, sold, or donated. However, certain items like military IDs or passports get sent to places like the US Department of State.

Final word

Delta Airlines relies on one of the same Lost and Found services that other major airlines rely on. It’s a service that has helped thousands of people find their lost items.

While those services are helpful you can increase your odds of recovering your item by timely filing your report and providing the highest level of detail possible.

In many cases, you might also have to rely on a little bit of luck but if you follow the steps above you should maximize your recovery odds with Delta Airlines.

Alaska Airlines Boarding Groups Guide: Don’t Get Left Behind! [2023 Updates!]

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. Then, in 2023 Alaska Airlines made more changes to the boarding policy allowing credit card holders to get priority boarding!

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.)
  • Priority Boarding (First Class, MVP Gold 100K)
  • Group A (Million Milers, MVP Gold, and MVP Gold 75K)
  • Group B (MVP members and guests in Premium Class seats)
  • Group C (Alaska credit card holders)
  • Group D (Main cabin in the back)
  • Group E (Main cabin in the front)
  • Group F (Saver)

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

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

Alaska Airlines economy cabin

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 screen
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.


Unaccompanied minors

Unaccompanied minors are children who are 5 to12 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. 

Related: Ultimate Preboarding Guide: Who Qualifies & What the Law States

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 notify the gate agent that you want pre-boarding.

Remember, you are able to self-identify that you need preboarding.

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.  

Alaska Airlines boarding area

Priority Boarding

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.

Also, if you hold elite status as an MVP Gold 100K member you can board with Priority Boarding.

If an aircraft does not have a first class cabin then group boarding for those flights will just begin with Group A.

Alaska airlines first class cabin

Group A (Million Milers, MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K, 100K)

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

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

Elite LevelMiles FlownSegments
Alaska MVP20,000 miles30
MVP Gold40,000 miles60
MVP Gold 75K75,000 miles90
MVP Gold 100K100,000 miles140
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.

Tip: Use WalletFlo for all your credit card needs. It’s free and will help you optimize your rewards and savings!

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

Group C is where you will board if you hold an Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card (personal or business). Just remember, you need to use your Alaska credit card to purchase your ticket!

Group D (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 D.

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 D, 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 E (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 E.

Don’t despair if you find yourself in this group because you still have a chance to secure overhead storage bin space.

We recently had Group E boarding and were pretty worried about having space for our luggage but it turns out we were perfectly fine.

With that said, I would try to get ahead of the line because by the time they got to Group D, Groups E&F were practically merging together and boarding so it helps if you can try to get ahead of that.

Otherwise, you may get left behind!

Group F (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.

When boarding groups don’t matter

Your Alaska Airlines boarding group may not matter at small airports which can be common in places like Southeast Alaska.

For example, we flew first class out of Gustavus airport which is a tiny little single building terminal.

They did not have the room for a traditional boarding process and so it was more of a first come, first serve boarding process. So don’t expect to take advantage of your boarding perks at smaller airports.

Related: How to Get to Gustavus, Alaska (Glacier Bay)

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.)
Priority Boarding (First Class, MVP Gold 100K)
Group A (Million Milers, MVP Gold, and MVP Gold 75K)
Group B (MVP members and guests in Premium Class seats)
Group C (Alaska credit card holders)
Group D (Main cabin in the back)
Group E (Main cabin in the front)
Group F (Saver)

How many boarding groups are there?

There are a total of eight boarding groups if you include preboarding and priority boarding.

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?

Yes, the Alaska Airlines Visa Credit Card allows you to board with Group C if you use the card to pay for your flight.

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.

Delta Air Lines Boarding Policy Guide: Another Switch to Group Ordering [2023]

Delta Air Lines has one of the more confusing boarding group orders since elite members are broken up more than others.

Still, it is relatively simple to follow given the different branded terms used to describe the boarding groups and the color schemes that go along with them.

What’s harder to keep up with are the different changes that they make like the one recently made to Diamond Medallion Members and First Class.

In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the Delta Air Lines boarding groups and policies.

Full list of Delta Air Lines boarding groups

  • Preboarding
  • Delta One
  • Delta Premium Select or First Class
  • Diamond Medallion Members
  • Delta Comfort+
  • Sky Priority
  • Main cabin one
  • Main cabin two
  • Main cabin three
  • Basic Economy

If the Delta Air Lines boarding groups above do not look familiar to you it might be because Delta Air Lines used to have boarding groups one through six.

The first two boarding groups were for Premium and Sky Priority members while the remaining four groups were for boarding zones one through four.

But Delta Air Lines recently changed the boarding group classification to reflect the type of ticket fare purchased. As you can see in the chart below, there were eight different groups labeled according to fare.

But then in 2022 they did another reshuffling and added a specific boarding group for Diamond Medallion Members.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

Old boarding group chart
Delta boarding sign

Delta Air Lines boarding groups explained

  • Preboarding
  • Delta One or First Class
  • Diamond Medallion Members
  • Delta Premium Select
  • Delta Comfort+
  • Sky Priority
  • Main Cabin one
  • Main Cabin two
  • Main Cabin three
  • Basic Economy


Unaccompanied minors

Unaccompanied minors are children who are 5-14 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. This is something you self-identify with so you should not get much pushback.

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

Active members of the military

Delta Air Lines will allow active members of the military to board during pre-boarding.

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

Delta One or First Class

The Delta One product is the premium product offered by Delta Airlines. This product consists of fully lie flat seats and other amenities and you typically find it on long-haul international flights although it can also be flown on some domestic routes.

It now looks like first class passengers fall into this group who are flying on shorter flights such as on domestic flights across the country.

Related: 15 Best Ways to Redeem Delta SkyMiles

Delta Diamond Medallion Members

Delta Diamond Medallion Members are the top level of elites with Delta Air Lines and now they have their own boarding group right after Delta One.

Delta Premium Select

The groups consist of Delta Premium Select customers.

Delta Premium Select is basically just a premium economy product which is an upgraded class between economy and business class that is typically found on long-haul flights.

You’ll get a wider seat, additional recline, and an adjustable footrest and leg rest on Delta Premium Select.

It’s also possible that Delta will offer early boarding for customers traveling with carseats and strollers at this point. This is known as “early access.”

These groups used to be a part of the pre-boarding group but got pushed back after the changes in 2019.

Delta Comfort+

Delta Comfort+ is the upgraded economy class product.

It’s similar to Main Cabin Extra on American Airlines as it allows a little bit of extra legroom and comes with some additional perks.

The extra legroom might only be up to 3 inches more but for people of certain heights, those 3 inches can go a long way.

You can read more about it here.

Delta first class

Tip: Use WalletFlo for all your credit card needs. It’s free and will help you optimize your rewards and savings!

Sky Priority

Delta Platinum Medallion members and Gold Medallion members will board in this group.

A lot of people were not happy that Platinum and Gold members were forced to board after Delta Comfort Plus passengers but that is how the recent changes played out.

Members who have not boarded with another group will board here as well.

These include elite members belonging to the following groups:

  • Flying Blue Platinum and Gold members
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Gold members
  • GOL Smiles Diamond members
  • SkyTeam Elite Plus members
  • LATAM Pass Black Signature, Black and Platinum Elite
  • WestJet Rewards Platinum and Gold Elite

Main cabin one

If you hold the lowest level of elite status with Delta, known as Silver Medallion, you will board with the first group of economy passengers.

Note: Silver Medallion Members will not have a dedicated Priority Boarding zone on Delta flights departing AMS and CDG due to Air France-KLM boarding policies.

Other passengers who board with the first economy group are Delta SkyMiles Gold, Platinum, and Reserve Card Members. These are the co-branded Delta Airlines credit cards issued by American Express.

These cards also come with additional perks such as free baggage and in some cases a companion certificate.

Other members who will board in this group include the following:

  • Delta Corporate Travelers
  • Priority Boarding Trip Extra customers
  • Flying Blue Silver members
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Silver members
  • Sky Team Elite
  • SkyMiles Select Members
  • LATAM Pass Gold+ Elite
  • WestJet Rewards Silver Elite

Tip: Check out the free app WalletFlo so that you can optimize your credit card spend by seeing the best card to use! You can also track credits, annual fees, and get notifications when you’re eligible for the best cards!

Main cabin two

This group will consist of additional main cabin passengers who do not fall into the Main cabin three group based on the type of fare bucket they purchased.

Main cabin three

Main Cabin customers booked in T, X and V fares will be the last economy passengers to board before basic economy. You can see the available fare class displayed at the time of purchase when searching for flights.

For example, here is a look at a main cabin ticket displaying the “T” fare. If you booked that ticket, you would be boarding in Main Cabin three.

Search results showing economy fare.

Basic economy

Basic economy tickets are the cheapest type of airfare you can purchase. These tickets do not come with certain perks such as not allowing you to select your seat so as you can imagine you will be the last group to board.

While basic economy will not charge you for a carry-on item, you may not have space to store it on many aircraft. Therefore, you may have to check your bag which you can do for free.

Getting to the boarding area

On the day of your flight, you want to arrive at the airport around two hours prior to departure for a domestic flight. You must arrive at least 30 minutes prior to check in and you must arrive at the gate at least 15 minutes prior to departure.

These are just general guidelines and the actual time needed may be different based on the airport, your route, and whether or not you are checking bags. For example, if you are traveling with checked bags through ATL, you need to check in at least 45 minutes prior to departure.

If you would like to see a breakdown of the minimum check-in times for various airports click here.

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 arrival 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. Arriving extra early also means that you will be able to spend time hanging out at the Delta Sky Club if you have access.

In the past, you might hear an announcement or see a screen indicating a specific boarding group zone number but now you will see the branded term for your ticket fare when it is time to board.

For example, if it is time for Delta One/Diamond members to board you will see the purple signage along with the fare class posted on the screen.

You can find your estimated boarding time on your boarding pass (on the paper version or on the mobile version).

Related: Why You Should (And Shouldn’t) Check in Online for Flights

Delta sky club at LAX
Delta Sky Club.

Delta Air Lines boarding FAQ

What are the Delta Air Lines boarding groups?

Delta One or First Class
Diamond Medallion Members
Delta Premium Select
Delta Comfort+
Sky Priority
Main Cabin one
Main Cabin two
Main Cabin three
Basic Economy

When do American Express cardmembers board?

American Express cardholders of Delta co-branded credit cards are allowed to board with main cabin group one.

What are the Delta Air Lines boarding coronavirus changes?

Due to the coronavirus, delta made some temporary changes to its booking including allowing passengers to begin boarding at the back of the plane first. Find out about other changes here.

What is the latest I can check-in?

Assuming you were not checking in any bags, you must check-in at least 30 minutes prior to departure but you must arrive at the gate at least 15 minutes prior to departure.

Do military members get priority boarding?

Yes, active military members can board during pre-boarding.

When do Diamond Medallion Members board?

Diamond Medallion Members now board directly after Delta One or First Class.

How many Delta boarding groups are there?

Counting pre-boarding, there are now 10 boarding groups.

Final word

The boarding order for Delta Air Lines is a little bit different from other airlines that prioritize elite members more. However, it’s still pretty easy to follow with the different color schemes and branding terms used for the different ticket fares.

What Fines Can TSA Impose on You if You Bring a Prohibited Item Through Security?

You’ve probably heard of TSA fining people for bringing certain prohibited items through airport security.

But how does that process actually work? Can TSA really slap a fine on you for bringing over-sized liquids through security?

In this article, we will take an in-depth look at how the TSA fining process works.

What fines can TSA charge you with for bringing prohibited items through security?

TSA can fine you for bringing prohibited items through security checkpoints and the range for those fines can vary widely from around $140 to about $15,000. TSA has discretion in how much they choose to fine you and they base the fine amount on a lot of different factors and circumstances.

Keep reading below to find out more details on how the process works!

TSA issues civil fines

TSA issues civil fines which is important for a couple of reasons.

First, if you receive a civil fine it is not a criminal matter and so you won’t have anything on your criminal record.

It is possible that you could get referred to law-enforcement and then there is the possibility of getting something on your record. But even that is not a guarantee.

But another reason why this distinction matters is that you could also get hit with a criminal fine, so you could be fined twice for your infraction.

The civil matter is completely different from the criminal matter. So for example your criminal case could be dropped but you still could be forced to pay the civil penalty (and vice versa).

You’ll notice that the fines have a range that can vary pretty widely.

That’s because TSA considers mitigating and aggravating factors when determining your fine. In other words, they will decide the penalty based on all of the circumstances.

A first time offender will not be treated the same as a second or third-time offender.

Also, TSA will take certain factors into consideration like if the violation was an accident, the experience of the violator, and even their attitude.

When do you know that you are getting a fine?

The tricky thing about getting fined by the TSA is that you won’t know if you’re getting fined at the time of the infraction.

TSA states that they cannot advise passengers at the time of the incident regarding the potential civil penalty.

Instead, the screening agent will pass along all the details about your situation to the TSA regulatory department who will then decide if a violation occurred.

After that, if an investigation determines that you did violate something, you will receive a notice of violation and you’ll have different options for responding to the notice of violation.

In some instances, you may be able to request a formal hearing or an informal conference so that you can present information to a TSA agent for your final decision. Essentially, you can explain why mitigating factors should apply in your case or perhaps why there was a misunderstanding.

If needed, you could hire an attorney for legal representation.

law hearing

The different types of TSA fines

Now let’s talk about the different types of fines that you could face based on the different types of violations.

Keep in mind that for lots of violations, TSA will simply ask you to throw out the item or simply request for you to exit security and find an alternative way to transport your item.

For example, lots of people forget that they have pocket knives in their bag and they don’t face any type of fine or criminal prosecution. Typically, the fines are reserved for more serious infractions that put people in danger.

Related: What Does the TSA Do With Confiscated Items?

A collection of confiscated knives from TSA via public surplus.

Prohibited items at checkpoint/sterile area/onboard aircraft

All of the fines in this section apply when the prohibited item is discovered at a checkpoint, in the sterile area, or even on board the aircraft.


Firearms are one of the most heavily penalized items you can get caught with when going through TSA.

If you bring a loaded firearm through TSA or even if the firearm is unloaded but you have access to ammunition, you could get hit with a fine ranging from $3,000 to $10,700.

On top of that, you could also get referred to law-enforcement.

Firearms is one of the areas that also comes with a much heftier fine if you are a repeat offender. So if you were to get caught with a loaded firearm for a second time, your fine could be closer to $15,000!

If you ever get caught with an unloaded firearm then the penalties are not as bad but they can still range from $1,500 to $5,370. And even if the firearm is unloaded you could still get a criminal referral.

You might be wondering about other types of guns like BB guns and pellet guns or compressed air guns. These type of guns along with replica firearms could still get you hit with a pretty big fine of $390 to $2,250.



As mentioned above, pocket knives are not allowed but TSA typically does not pursue an investigation when someone is caught with these because they are so common.

But they do explicitly mention that fines could be headed down if you were found with certain types of knives and sharp objects like: switch blades, butterfly knives, double edge knives and daggers, sabers, and swords. Also problematic are machetes, throwing stars, and throwing knives.

Flammable liquids and flammable gels

What about flammable liquids and flammable gels?

If you get caught with things like gasoline, lighter fluid, cooking fuels, turpentine, paint thinners, etc., the fine range could be $390 to $2,250.

Taking things like smoke grenades or flash bangs could get you hit with a more serious fine of up to $3,720 along with a criminal referral.


The fines really start to turn up whenever we talk about explosives.

The type of fine you get handed to you would depend on the type of explosive. If you had anything like blasting caps, initiators, dynamite, gunpowder (over 10 ounces), hand grenades, and plastic explosive, all of those could get you hit with a fine of up to $15,000.

And of course, a criminal referral could go along with that.

But you also have to be careful about the replicas that you carry around. For example if you had a replica grenade or even an inert hand grenade, that could be enough for a criminal referral and a fine ranging from $740 to $3720.

Novelty items and other explosives

Another area of concern related to explosives is when people bring novelty items that look like explosives.

The classic example is a bottle of cologne that looks like a grenade or a lighter in the shape of a grenade.

Things like fireworks you brought from a firework stand or small packs of gunpowder under 10 ounces can also be a major problem with fines ranging from $390 to $2,250.

And even though you might think these things are innocent they could still get you in trouble with the law.

Cologne bottle shaped like a grenade

Security violations for items discovered in your checked baggage

Now let’s talk about what happens if you get caught with things in your checked baggage.

The fines are not as bad because these sometimes present less of a danger but you could still get hit with serious fines and get in trouble with the law.


A loaded firearm could cost you up to $3,000 and get you in trouble with the law.

Remember, there are specific rules for traveling with a firearm including storing it in a case. You also have to declare that firearm. And if you fail to declare the firearm or you don’t properly package it up then that penalty could range from $740 to $1,490.


The penalties for getting caught with explosives are pretty much the same as they are for carry-ons. This makes sense considering that explosives can be just as dangerous in the baggage hold as they would be in the cabin.

Trying to circumvent security

You can also get fined if you attempt to circumvent security but the type of fine you would get handed to you would depend on your method of concealment.

For example, let’s say that you were trying to sneak an oversized liquid through security but that it was a non-explosive.

Imagine someone trying to secretly bring a 7 ounce container of hairspray which is above the 3.4 ounce limit. I’m guessing this would be like someone hiding it inside a stuffed animal or inside their pant leg.

That person could get fined up to $300.

Now let’s talk about some devices that are prohibited.

Imagine somebody had a flashlight with a built-in stun gun. Or say that they had a lipstick or pen that had a hidden knife inside.

These are considered to be “ordinary artful concealment” attempts and they could result in some pretty big fines of up to $2,250.

The fines could be much worse if you were trying to bring in a firearm that was concealed such as a cell phone gun. In that case, the hefty amount you could be charged with could range from about $5,000 to over $10,000.

And then TSA has a classification they call “extraordinary artful concealment.”

This is when a passenger takes a pretty extraordinary effort to conceal something.

It’s different from the classification above because you could at least imagine a scenario where someone accidentally brings one of those items like a flashlight with a stun gun and simply forgets about the prohibition on stun guns.

But in these cases, the concealment intent is very much apparent.

For example if you were to wrap up a gun in aluminum foil so that it would not get picked up by the x-ray machine that would be an example of extraordinary concealment.

Another example would be if you had a book with the core hollowed out so that you could hide prohibited items inside. In these cases, the fine could be up to $10,700.

Interfering with screening

Now let’s get into interfering with screening.

This is a big one and it’s one major reason why you don’t want to mess around with the screening agents.

Sometimes people get upset if they have to surrender an item or if they are spoken to in a rude manner by a TSA agent. This can lead to confrontations which unfortunately can result in people getting physical.

If you were to cause an injury to a TSA agent by assaulting them you could be charged with a fine of up to $15,000. Even if you don’t cause an injury that fine could still be up to $11,300.

And then there is the fine for nonphysical interference. This can be a big one for people who want to video record or take photographs at the security checkpoint.

An officer could argue that these people are interfering with the screening (which is a pretty vague concept) and in those instances a fine of up to $5,830 could be thrown down.

And what would happen if you decided to sneak through security and gain access to the sterile area without getting screened?

If you were caught then TSA could decide to penalize you by fining you $740 to $4,480.

There are additional ways to get fined as well such as tampering with security systems and knowingly giving fraudulent information.

For example, if you told TSA that you noticed another passenger had something suspicious going on but there was no evidence for that, you could be slapped with a fine of around $4,000. The security checkpoint is very much a no non-sense zone!

Final word

There are quite a few ways to pick up a civil fine from TSA. Lots of times, TSA will simply throw out prohibited items and send you on your way so you don’t have anything to worry about.

But if you bring certain dangerous items like firearms, explosives, and other potentially harmful devices, you open up the door to getting fined.

In those cases, if there was an honest mistake you may still be able to avoid a big fine but if there is evidence that you are a repeat offender or there are aggravating factors, you might have to deal with a pretty large fine.

Frontier Airlines Boarding Policy Guide [2023]

Frontier Airlines has a pretty straightforward boarding process for the most part. What’s great is that there are a few opportunities that allow you to get priority boarding even if you do not have elite status and I will talk about some of those below.

In this article, I will break down everything you need to know about the Frontier Airlines boarding policy.

Frontier Airlines boarding groups order

  • Special Services
  • Zone 1 (Priority Boarding)
  • Courtesy Boarding
  • Zone 2
  • Zone 3
  • Zone 4

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

Special Services

The very first group to board is “special services” which includes individuals in need of boarding assistance. This includes passengers who need a wheelchair or other similar type of equipment.

Remember, that when it comes to pre-boarding, you self identify as someone who needs assistance. You should not have to explain your full medical issue(s) to the gate agent and instead can just tell them that you identify as someone who needs extra time to board. By law, they are required to allow this.

Frontier Airlines does not make a special announcement for special needs boarding. So be sure to tell the gate agent that you need preboarding and then ask them what you need to do to ensure that you will be able to take advantage of that boarding.

This is also the time when unaccompanied minors were allowed to board but effective November 1, 2018, Frontier Airlines no longer accepts children traveling alone under the age of 15 years of age.

 Related: Guide to Visiting Airports & Flying with Vision Impairments

Zone 1 Boarding (Priority Boarding)

If you purchase a carry-on bag you can get priority boarding. Remember, Frontier Airlines is a low-cost carrier which means that you have to pay for things like carry-on items.

Assuming you pay your baggage fees online during booking, a carry-on will be about $39 and your first checked bag will be about $34. To view the latest baggage fees read more here.

Passengers who purchased the Works or Perks can also take advantage of priority boarding. For those of you who don’t know, the Works is a special package that offers:

  • Carry on bag
  • Checked bag
  • Seat selection
  • Priority boarding
  • Flight flexibility
  • 100% refund ability

Meanwhile, the Perks offers:

  • Carry on bag
  • Checked bag
  • Seat selection
  • Priority boarding

You can read more about these packages here.

If you have elite status with myFRONTIER Miles, you can also get priority boarding.

There are three different levels of elite status with Frontier Airlines:

  • Elite 20k: Earn 20,000 Qualifying Miles or 25 Segments
  • Elite 50k: Earn 50,000 Qualifying Miles or 50 Segments
  • Elite 100k: Earn 100,000 Qualifying Miles or 100 Segments

Unlike other airlines where it is common to have many elite members on virtually every flight, on Frontier Airlines, you may not see as many elite members which means you can board even quicker if you are elite.

Courtesy boarding

Courtesy boarding is available to families traveling with small children. On the main website it says children under three years old but on the Barclays website for the Frontier Airlines MasterCard it mentions children under the age of five. So you may need to clear this up with an agent at the gate.

This boarding group is also designated for passengers requiring additional time or assistance.

Related: How Early Should You Get to the Airport?

General Boarding (Zone 2 to Zone 4)

General boarding will be the last to board the plane. Within general boarding there may be smaller groups which will typically board from the back of the plane to the front.

You can get Zone 2 priority boarding by holding the Frontier Airlines World Mastercard.

Just make sure that if you have the card you are logged in when booking your flight or that you have your membership account added to your reservation.

Keep in mind that you can spend your way to elite status with the Frontier Airlines MasterCard.

The terms from the Frontier Airlines MasterCard state:

Cardmembers will receive boarding priority and “ZONE 2” will be displayed on the member’s boarding pass so long as they are logged into their Program Membership Account when booking their flight, or had their Membership Account number added to their reservation. All “ZONE 2” passengers board after military passengers, elite status members, “Meet and Assist”, passengers with disabilities, or passengers with children under the age of 5, who need extra time down the jet way and ZONE 1 passengers. Only the primary cardmember is eligible for this benefit.

A lot of people dread being in general boarding because they are the last to board and therefore often don’t have space in the overhead storage bin.

This can happen to you when flying Frontier Airlines but because there are fees for carry-ons and checked bags are cheaper, you often see that there is more space available in the overhead storage compartments on Frontier Airlines flights.

Discount Den?

The Discount Den does not offer you priority boarding but it does provide you with some other valuable perks which include:

  • Special access to cheaper fares
  • Cheaper fares available to up to six people on the reservation
  • On valid Kids Fly Free flights, one kid under 15 can fly for free for every adult Discount Den fare purchased
  • Be the first to hear about news 

Related: Frontier Airlines Discount Den Review

Stretch seats

Stretch seats provide you with more legroom and are essentially the “economy plus” of Frontier Airlines. You can find the seats on different aircraft including: A319, A320, and A321 and they can be located in the front of the plane and also in the exit rows.

Sometimes you can receive a free upgrade to the seats but other times you will have to purchase them and the price can range pretty dramatically. I’ve seen prices range anywhere from $16 to $56.

It all depends on your route and when you purchase. If you purchase the seats during the booking process online you will likely get the cheapest price. However, if you wait until you arrive at the airport then you might see the price shoot way up.

Don’t get the stretch seat confused with the “big front seat.” The big front seats are essentially the business/first class of Frontier. The seats are a good deal wider than the stretch seats and also only sit in rows of two much like a traditional domestic first class.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

Priority security

You can also get priority access in the form of priority security if you fall into one of the groups below:

  • You have additional needs
  • You are traveling as an Elite member of myFRONTIER Miles
  • You have purchased a carry-on bag
  • You have purchased the WORKS℠

In my experience, I prefer to just use TSA Pre-Check to gain access to an expedited security line. TSA Pre-Check is extremely convenient and also comes with the following benefits:

  • Shoes can stay on
  • Belt can stay on
  • Light jackets can stay on
  • Laptops allowed to stay in bag
  • Liquids (3-1-1 Rule) can stay in bag

Showing up for boarding

Knowing what your boarding zone is, is just one part of getting to your destination. The other component is making sure that you arrive at the boarding gate in time for your flight.

Here are the guidelines that Frontier supplies for domestic boarding:

  • 45 minutes prior to your departure, check in for your flight and for your bags will be closed.
  • 30 minutes prior to departure the boarding process will begin.
  • 20 minutes prior to departure, there will be a call for final boarding.
  • 15 minutes prior to departure, the doors will officially close.

Note: The timing will be a little bit different for international flights. For example, you will need to be checked in with your luggage no later than 60 minutes prior to departure for an international flight.

You will be able to find your departure time and boarding time on your boarding pass.

Just be aware that these times can change after you check in so always keep an eye out for the latest times on the display panels found throughout the airport terminals.

Frontier Airlines World Mastercard

Card art of the Frontier Airlines World Mastercard.

I mentioned the Frontier Airlines World Mastercard earlier and here is a look at more of the benefits.

  • Welcome bonus (ranges)
  • 5X on Frontier purchases
  • 3X on restaurants
  • 1X on all other purchases
  • Earn toward Elite Status
  • Earn a $100 Flight Voucher
  • Unlock Family Pooling
  • Priority boarding
  • Award redemption fee waiver
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $79 annual fee (not waived)

Frontier Airlines boarding FAQ

Where can I see my boarding group?

Your boarding group should be visible on your boarding pass. Check the bottom right corner although it could appear in different areas.

How to get a window seat on Frontier?

The best way to guarantee a window seat on Frontier Airlines is to select your seat at the time of booking.

Do you have assigned seating on Frontier?

Frontier Airlines will allow you to select your seat at the time of booking. However, if you do not select a seat you will be randomly assigned a seat from whatever seats remain at check-in.

Does my group or family get to sit together?

Frontier Airlines will try to keep your party together but the only way to guarantee it is by selecting your seats at the time of booking.

How much does it cost to select my seat on Frontier?

The price to choose your seat for standard seating may range from $17 to $55.

When does boarding begin for Frontier Airlines?

Boarding begins 30 minutes prior to departure on domestic flights.

Final word

As you can tell, the boarding process for Frontier Airlines is pretty straightforward. If you truly care about where you sit, my advice would be to select your seat beforehand, especially if you want to stay together as a group.

United Airlines Boarding Groups Guide: (Avoid Group 4 & 5!) [2023]

Figuring out the boarding process for airlines is not always the easiest task because there are so many different types of boarding groups (and sub-groups).

Between pre-boarding and all the elite level passengers, it can be tough to keep tabs on when you need to line up at the gate.

But we’ve got you covered.  

In this article, I will break down all of the United Airlines boarding groups and explain to you exactly how the boarding process works including how to avoid getting stuck in the dreaded Group 4 or Group 5 boarding groups.

I will also show you what to expect in terms of things like leg room with the different types of aircraft you might be flying in.

How many boarding groups does United have?

United Airlines has a total of five official boarding groups (plus pre-boarding): 

  • Pre-boarding (Top tier elites, Military, Disabilities, etc.)
  • Group 1 (Business class and first class, upper elite levels)
  • Group 2 (Lower elite levels, United credit card holders)
  • Group 3 (Economy passengers)
  • Group 4 (Economy passengers)
  • Group 5 (Basic Economy)

Keep reading below to find out who exactly qualifies for each of these boarding groups.

How soon to arrive before boarding a United flight?

The general rule of thumb is to arrive two hours before departure on a domestic flight and three hours before departure on an international flight.

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

Once you get to the airport, the first thing you want to do is confirm the boarding time and gate.

You can usually find the estimated boarding time on your boarding pass. Just note that this time is subject to change depending on the status of delays.

In addition, it’s always possible that your gate could change as well so always keep your eye on the flight monitors located throughout the airport and lounges. 

For a lot of flights, you can utilize the United Airlines app and set up push notifications for when boarding begins. Of course, it would still be wise to keep an eye on the time yourself just in case you don’t receive the push notification.

The planes usually start to board about 35 to 50 minutes prior to departure depending on the size of the aircraft. For example, a 737 may begin to board 35 minutes before departure but a 757 will be closer to 50 minutes. 

I like to arrive at the gate about 15 minutes prior to the estimated boarding time.

However, if you are flying on a large aircraft and you want to get close to the front of the line you might have to arrive even sooner than 15 minutes before boarding.

Related: How Early Should You Get to the Airport?

United airlines plane on tarmac

How does United Airlines boarding process work?

Once you arrive at the gate to board you should see signs telling you where you need to lineup.

Groups 1 and 2 will be able to line up but United may ask for groups three through five to have a seat until those groups are called at a later time.

Group 1 will board through the blue lane and Group 2 will board through the green lane (as you can see in the photo below).

The remaining Groups 3 to 5 will then board through the green lane when called.

If you are in Group 1 or 2 and show up late, you can always enter through the blue lane and bypass the line of other passengers. 

A good practice is to simply walk up to the front of the blue lane and then wait for the agent to motion for you to come forward.

This can avoid situations where other passengers feel like you have rudely cut them off.

Related: What Happens if You Miss Your United Airlines Flight?

United Airlines boarding group area
United Airlines boarding group signs.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

What order does United board its planes?

I will go into detail about each boarding group below but once again here is a summary of the order of United boarding groups per United’s website.

  • Pre-boarding (Top tier elites, Military, Disabilities, etc.)
  • Group 1 (Business class and first class, mid elite levels)
  • Group 2 (Lower elite levels, United credit card holders)
  • Groups 3 – 5 (Economy passengers)


Unaccompanied minors

Unaccompanied minors are children who are 5 to 14 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.

But if your disability is not as apparent, you should speak to a gate agent about getting priority boarding.

Remember that preboarding is something you self identify for so a gate agent should be very careful about pushing back on your reasoning for needing preboarding.

Typically, the gate agent should make an announcement about boarding with a disability but they may not. However, those with disabilities should be called before elite members, members of the military, passengers with small children, etc.

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

Active members of the military

United Airlines does not require active members of the military to be in their military uniform.

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

United Global Services members

United Global Services is the top elite status for United Airlines.

It is somewhat mysterious in that you have to get invited to join this status. The requirements have a lot to do with the amount of money that you spend and the types of airfare that you book. You can read more about United Global Services and the requirements for it here

Families traveling with children age 2 and younger

If you are traveling with children two years or younger, you can also get pre-boarding. 

Premier 1K members

Premier 1K is the second highest elite membership level. This elite level is not an invite only status and can be earned by meeting the following requirements:

Premier levelPQF and PQP Requirement
Premier Silver12 PQF and 4,000 PQP or 5,000 PQP
Premier Gold24 PQF and 8,000 PQP or 10,000 PQP
Premier Platinum36 PQF and 12,000 PQP or 15,000 PQP
Premier 1K54 PQF and 18,000 PQP or 24,000 PQP
United Airlines preboarding sign

Group 1

Group 1 caters to the mid-level elite members and also to anybody flying first class, business class, or Polaris. 

Premier Platinum members

Platinum is the elite level just under 1K. 

Premier Gold members

Premier Gold is the level just under Platinum. 

Star Alliance Gold members

Star Alliance Gold status is the higher level of Star Alliance status and you will receive this if you are a United Premier Gold member. This status is useful because it comes with lounge perks.

Customers seated in premium cabins: United Polaris, United First and United Business

If you are flying in the front of the plane (United Polaris, United First, and United Business) then you will be able to board with Group One.

If you are flying on a large aircraft like the Dreamliner the line in Group 1 can get quite long so you may want to arrive extra early to the gate if you want to be the first to board. To find out more about the United first class experience click here

United Airlines business class seats

Group 2

Group Two is for the lower-elite members and also for certain customers who have co-branded cards or who have purchased priority boarding perks. This line can be pretty long sometimes, too. 

Premier Silver members

United Premier Silver is the lowest level of the status with United Airlines. This status can easily be achieved and you can even get it with Marriott status. Click here to read more about United Silver status.

Star Alliance Silver members

Star Alliance Silver status is the lowest level of Star Alliance status and you will receive this if you are a United Premier Silver member.

Customers who have purchased Premier Access or Priority Boarding

Even if you don’t have elite status and you are not flying business class or first class you can still get upgraded to priority boarding by purchasing it or by purchasing Premier Access.

Priority boarding prices start at $15 and whether or not it’s worth it just depends on how much you value getting on board earlier. 

If you choose to purchase Premier Access, in addition to Priority Boarding, you’ll also enjoy the convenience of dedicated airport check-in lines and exclusive security lanes, where available. Read more about purchasing Premier Access.

United Airlines check-in area
United Premier check-in area.

United Explorer, Club, Presidential Plus and Awards Cardmembers

If you are a United cobranded cardholder for the Explorer Card, United Club Card, or Presidential Plus Card you can also get priority boarding.

I am a big fan of the Explorer card because it offers some great benefits like free checked baggage (even on international flights), priority boarding, increased award inventory, and you also get two free day passes to United Club lounges each year. And on top of that the Explorer card often comes with a great welcome bonus. 

Tip: Check out the free app WalletFlo so that you can optimize your credit card spend by seeing the best card to use! You can also track credits, annual fees, and get notifications when you’re eligible for the best cards!

Groups 3, 4, and 5

Groups 3 through 5 don’t line up until the others have begin boarding and it consists of pretty much everybody in economy class. The secret to getting a Group 3 vs Group 4 or Group 5 boarding group is to pick the right type of seat. 

Economy passengers who choose a window seat should get Group 3, passengers who pick a middle or aisle seat should get Group 4, and passengers who choose Basic Economy will get Group 5.

This order is optimized so that passengers don’t have to trample over each other and I confirmed with a United representative that they were still utilizing this order as of late 2022. 

Economy Plus

Economy Plus will get Group 3 although the United rep I spoke with said it’s possible for them to also get Group 4.

Economy plus is the slightly more expensive version of economy that allows you to have more leg room.

The prices for upgrading to economy plus will vary depending on the location of the seat and the duration of the route.

If you have United elite status you will often get bumped up from economy to economy plus. (This is the case even with the lowest level of status.)

United Economy

Traditional economy tickets will board before basic economy. 

Basic Economy

If you purchased a basic economy ticket you will be the last to board.

Basic economy tickets are the cheapest type of tickets and they do not come with privileges such as bringing on a free carry on or being able to select a seat.

These are not very ideal for families traveling who would like to stick together on the plane but if you are just trying to find the cheapest way to get from point A to point B this could be a good option.

There is an exception to note here. Premier members, Chase Cardmembers of qualifying cards and Star Alliance Gold members, will still receive their priority boarding.

Related: United Airlines Basic Economy vs Economy (Key Differences)

United plane cabin

Bringing on a carry-on 

If you are in the first few groups, you shouldn’t have any issues bringing on a carry-on to the aircraft but if you are boarding at the end, such as in Group 4 or Group 5 it’s possible that you might not have enough room for your carry-on in the over head bins.

In that case, you’ll need to gate check your bag. (Read here for more about what type of luggage you can bring on to the plane).

Related: Airline Overhead Storage Bin Etiquette Guide

Choosing a seat on United Airlines

The seats are assigned on United airlines. So unlike the Southwest boarding process, you’ll have a seat dedicated to you. You can choose your seat whenever you purchase your ticket or at the time of check-in. 

United seating details (seating chart)

Below is what you can expect in terms of leg room and seats with different United aircraft.

Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner

  • Business: 6’6″ pitch; 20.6″ width
  • Economy Plus: 35″ pitch; 17.3″ width
  • Economy: 30″ pitch; 16.3″ to 17.3″

Boeing 777-200 (777)

  • Business: 6’4″ to 6’6″ pitch; 18.8″ to 22″ width
  • Economy Plus: 34″ pitch; 18.1″ width
  • Economy: 31″ pitch; 17.2″ to 18.1″ width

Boeing 777-300ER (77W)

  • Business/Polaris: 6’6″ pitch; 18.8″ to 22″ width
  • United Premium Plus: 38″ pitch; 18.5″ width
  • Economy Plus: 34″ pitch; 17.05″ width
  • Economy: 31″ pitch; 17.05″ width

Boeing 737-700

  • Business: 38″ pitch;
  • Economy Plus: 34″ to 38″ pitch; 
  • Economy: 30″ pitch;   

Boeing 737-800 (738)

  • Business: 37″ pitch; 20.5″ width
  • Economy Plus: 34″ pitch; 16.3″ to 17.3″ width
  • Economy: 30″ pitch; 16.3″ to 17.3″ width

Airbus 320 (320)

  • Business: 39″ pitch; 19″ width
  • Economy Plus: 35″ pitch; 17″ width
  • Economy: 30″ pitch; 17″ width

There are several other different types of aircraft and also different versions of those planes. So if you want to check out a complete list of all of those click here

United boarding FAQ

What order does United board its planes?

Pre-boarding (Top tier elites, Military, Disabilities, etc.)
Group 1 (Business class in first class, upper elite levels)
Group 2 (Lower elite levels, United credit card holders)
Group 3 (Economy window passengers)
Group 4 (Economy aisle/middle passengers)
Group 5 (Basic Economy)

How can I get priority boarding?

You can get priority boarding by having elite status with United or by holding certain credit cards such as the Chase United Explorer card. You can also get priority boarding by flying in a premium cabin such as business class.

How do I know what time to board?

Your boarding time should be printed on your boarding pass. You can also use the United app.

Just be aware that boarding times are subject to change so always verify the boarding time by looking at the flight monitors at the airport.

When do military members get to board?

Active military members can board during pre-boarding. They are not required to be in uniform.

Do families get priority boarding?

Families traveling with children ages two or younger can board during pre-boarding.

When do United Silver members board?

Silver members will board with Group 2.

When do Chase United Explorer cardmembers get to board?

Chase United Explorer cardmembers will get to board with group two.

Final word 

It’s very easy to get priority boarding with United so that you board within the first two groups. In fact, it’s so easy that many times you’ll find that these lines are very long. If you’re not able to get a boarding position in the first two groups, consider choosing a window seat so that you can board the plane in Group 3 and stay away from the basic economy tickets that will have you boarding last. 

Is the Hotel Valet Responsible When They Damage Your Vehicle? [Tips]

Valet parking can be one of the most convenient ways to get in and out of a hotel.

But it does come with the risk of something happening to your vehicle since you are handing over the keys to someone that you probably have never even seen before.

So what happens if your car gets damaged while parked with the hotel valet? Is the hotel or valet driver responsible or will you be liable for the damage?

Let’s take a look at this question and provide some much-needed clarity.

Note: While I am a licensed attorney, nothing in this article constitutes legal advice.

How to find out who is responsible for the damage to your vehicle

Are you dealing with the hotel or the valet service?

Typically, it’s not the driver individually who will be liable for damage but his or her employer.

So, one of the first things you want to clear up is whether or not the valet driver’s employer is the hotel or a third-party valet service company.

This will help you focus your communications and hone in on a potential insurance policy that would apply.

There are different types of insurance policies that could apply in these cases. But if it is your vehicle that has been damaged, chances are you will be dealing with something like a garage-keepers legal liability coverage.

Reputable valet companies should all have insurance policies that could cover most damage to your vehicle.

For example, the National Parking Association requires its members to carry at least $5 million in general and $1 million in legal liability coverage and there could even be individual state requirements as well.

Therefore, if they assume responsibility for the damage you should be able to just work through their insurance company to get reimbursed for any repairs.

After everything gets sorted out, the insurance company for the valet provider will probably end up sending a check to you or to the shop who will be repairing your vehicle and that will be the end of things.

The only problem is that this process is not always so easy.

Proving liability

Once you have narrowed down who is responsible, the next question is are they actually liable and can you prove it?

It’s not uncommon for damage claims against valet services to be difficult.

And that’s for a few reasons.

First, you could be dealing with limited evidence.

Unless you have photos or videos of your vehicle that show that the alleged damage was NOT there just before you handed it over, a valet company could simply claim that the damage was already there.

At the same time, if you don’t discover the damage until later on the valet company could claim that the damage occurred after they handed the vehicle back to you.

This is especially true when it comes to very minor scratches and scuffs that many people are willing to just blow off.

Sometimes there are cameras in the valet parking area (or a nearby business) that can be used to prove or disprove a claim but that is not always the case. This is why it is so important to always document the condition of your vehicle before and after you use valet.

Another issue is the release of liability.

Take a look at your valet ticket or the form you signed at the hotel and chances are you will see a release of liability for damage and theft for your vehicle.

Lots of people think that this means the valet company cannot be liable under any circumstances. That’s not necessarily the case.

If you could show that they were breaching the standard of care to you like failing to drive like a reasonable person then you could still have a claim against them. For example, if they hit another vehicle or a post in a parking garage, you should be able to pursue a claim against them for negligent driving.

These things can depend on state laws, insurance policies, etc. but the point is to not be scared off because of some release of liability.

Another reason why it is tough to make a claim is that the damage could have been caused by a third-party. For example, someone (not associated with the valet company or hotel) could have hit your car while it was parked with the valet.

If that’s the case then you likely don’t have a claim against the valet company and you would need to rely on collision damage waiver or speak with your insurance company.

If you had a rental car, did you have a collision damage waiver?

Collision damage waiver is a form of insurance that protects you against damage or theft for your vehicle. It’s a popular policy to get when renting a vehicle.

You can get this policy from the rental car company or if you have a good travel rewards credit card, you could have this protection built-in to your credit card (assuming that you used it to purchase the rental car).

The big question with these policies is whether or not they cover damage from a valet driver.

If you look at the policy like the one from Chase, you’ll see that the collision damage waiver applies to the “primary renter of the vehicle, and any additional drivers permitted by the Rental Car Agreement.”

Other times, you’ll see the language that the benefit only applies whenever the vehicle is “under your control.”

Because the valet driver is likely not mentioned on your rental car agreement and because the vehicle is not under your control after they take possession of it, it could easily be argued that the collision damage waiver does not apply when a valet driver is driving your rental vehicle.

This may not be the case with every collision damage waiver but it’s definitely something to be on the lookout for.

If you can get coverage with this waiver, then that can be a good route to go before relying on your insurance company because it can help reduce your premium going up.

Related: How Much Should You Tip the Valet at a Hotel?

What if the hotel or valet service denies liability?

If the valet driver is clearly at fault then the insurance company for the hotel or the valet service should acknowledge that and be willing to work with you to reimburse you for the damage they caused.

This will probably be the likely outcome when fault is clearly established because the insurance company knows that they could be sued or pursued by your own insurance company if they refuse to pay up.

But there may be situations where fault is not clearly established or evidence is lacking. In these cases, you may not be able to get the insurance company for the valet driver to cover the damage without a fight.

You could try to get collision damage waiver to kick in for a rental car but as we already pointed out it may not apply for valet incidents.

In the end, you may be left to contact your own auto insurance company about coverage. The drawback here is that it could result in an increased premium and you may have to pay your deductible. So if the damage is minor then it may not be worth it.

If you were just dealing with minor damage, then you could contact the hotel or their corporate offices to request some type of compensation in the form of a refund or potentially even a special credit or points.

Perhaps you are able to touch up the scratches with some touchup paint and getting a few thousand points could be all you need to feel satisfied.

What to do if your vehicle gets damaged by a hotel valet

If you want to increase your odds of having a successful claim when your vehicle is damaged by valet, here are some important steps.

First, as we already talked about you want to document the status of your vehicle before you hand it over and after you receive it. An easy way to do this is to just record a video as you walk around the vehicle.

Lots of times scuffs, dents, and scratches occur on the rims and the bumper areas of the vehicle so pay special close attention to those. You could also do a quick run through on the inside of your vehicle.

As soon as you detect damage, you want to confront the hotel or valet service company and let them know that you believe they are responsible for the damage. Get all of their contact information, insurance information, and fill out any paperwork needed to file a claim.

At that point, it’s just a matter of seeing how they respond.

They could take ownership of the situation and have you fill out some paperwork to begin the reimbursement process or they could deny fault which means that you will need to take some additional steps.

If a valet denies responsibility then ask if they have security cameras and take a look around for nearby businesses to see if they have them as well.

You could file a police report but a lot of times police officers may not file a report for you if it is a minor damage situation (that is purely a civil matter). For example, if the damage is simply a flat tire that’s not probably worth a police report. But if there are broken windows and mirrors, body damage, etc., that’s a different story.

Take extra effort to take all the photos and video that you can and again make sure that you get all of the contact information from the valet and hotel. Also, try to put a timeline together immediately while your memory is fresh so that you can reconstruct the story later on.

If the valet service is separate from the hotel consider talking to the hotel about the situation. Sometimes the hotel may be willing to take initiative to help sort things out and they could be a big help.

However, you need to be very careful about any statements you make because they could be considered admissions which could work against you later on.

Basically, if you don’t feel like a hotel is going to be on your side or you tend to say things without thinking them through, it may be best to just end the conversation with them.

The next step would be to contact your insurance company and see what they could do for you. They will likely want a statement from you which should be easy to supply if you already made up your timeline of events.

You could always decide to handle it yourself and hire a lawyer to sue them but that’s typically not the best option if you have an insurance company who can work on your behalf.

Final word

If a valet service at a hotel damages your vehicle, it’s not always the easiest thing to prove. However, if you took steps to document the status of your vehicle before turning it in and after receiving it, you will have more evidence to stand on.

Can You Get Through TSA and Fly with No ID? [2023]

Okay, so you messed up and don’t have an ID but you need to catch a flight. What can you do? Well, you might be surprised to find out that you still might actually be able to board the plane even without an ID.

In this article, I will break down everything you need to know about getting through TSA without an ID. I’ll talk about both domestic and international flights and explain what the process is like for verifying your identity.

Can you get through TSA with no ID?

Yes, you can get through a TSA security checkpoint and board your plane without an ID. However, you will be subject to an identity verification process and also likely subjected to a heightened security screening. Keep reading below and I will break it all down for you.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

IDs accepted by TSA

Before jumping in to the steps of what to do when you don’t have a standard ID (e.g., a driver’s license), first you should make sure that you don’t have an alternative form of ID that is accepted by TSA. TSA accepts over a dozen different types of identification.

Below is a list of IDs accepted by TSA:

  • Driver’s licenses or other state photo identity cards issued by Department of Motor Vehicles (or equivalent)
  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. passport card
  • DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
  • U.S. Department of Defense ID, including IDs issued to dependents
  • Permanent resident card
  • Border crossing card
  • State-issued Enhanced Driver’s License
  • Federally recognized, tribal-issued photo ID
  • HSPD-12 PIV card
  • Foreign government-issued passport
  • Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card
  • Transportation worker identification credential
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment Authorization Card (I-766)
  • U.S. Merchant Mariner Credential
  • Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC)

Make sure that your name used for your booking matches your ID since changing your name on a ticket can be a challenge.

If you’ve gone through all of those possibilities and you still do not have any qualifying form of identification then it is time to go through the identity verification process with TSA. Don’t worry — it’s usually not that bad!

TSA accepts a lot of different forms of ID.

TSA Identification verification process

If you have not arrived to the airport yet, do your best to arrive to the airport extra early because the verification process could take a long time.

The standard recommended time for arriving before a domestic flight is two hours so logically you would want to arrive at least two hours prior to your departure. (I would shoot for 2.5 to 3 hours prior to the flight.)

But the time required might also depend on the type of airport you are at.

If you are at a well-equipped, larger airport with lots of resources the agents there probably have more experience with this identity verification process and so the process could be much more streamlined.

That may not be the case at a much smaller, regional airport. You could imagine how long the process described below could take if you are dealing with a TSA agent who has never had to deal with the verification process before.

If you are already at the airport and just realized that you do not have your ID, hopefully you are not in a rush. If you have very limited time (30 minutes to get to boarding) there’s a chance that there will not be enough time for them to verify your identity and you may want to go ahead and just reschedule your flight if possible.

But if you do have time to spare then it could be worth it to go through the identity verification process.

Related: TSA Checklist (Tips & PDF)

Identity Verification Call Center (IVCC)

If you realize that you do not have an ID your first step is to approach a TSA agent and let them know that you do not have an ID and that you would like to go through the verification process so that you can still board your flight.

They are likely going to ask you for the following:

  • Name
  • A photo
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Social Security Number
  • Date of birth

They will also request for you to supply two forms of secondary ID. The secondary form of ID can take a lot of different forms and these include:

  • Library card
  • Business card
  • Social Security card
  • Student ID
  • Mail
  • Credit cards
  • Photo of an ID
  • Voter registration card
  • Prescription with your name on the label

If your wallet or ID was stolen then it would be very helpful for you to have a police report to back up your claim. If you are traveling with family members who do have an ID and you have photos of you together with them that can also help bolster your case.

The more documents you can supply, the better.

In some cases, showing some of the above documents may be enough for your identity to be verified but in other cases it might not be enough.

TSA states that, “If your identity cannot be verified with the provided documentation, you may be required to go through an alternative identity verification process, which includes collecting information such as your name, current address, and other personal information, and asking personal questions to help confirm your identity.”

You may also be asked to fill out a special form.

If your identity cannot be verified then a TSA agent may resort to the Identity Verification Call Center (IVCC).

In this situation, an agent on the other side of the phone will attempt to verify your identity and possibly ask you some personal questions. They will accomplish this by running your name against a database and looking for you to confirm answers to questions.

These questions could be similar to those identity verification questions that pop up when you attempt to do something like check your credit score on Credit Karma. But they also could be more random or a little bit deeper so be prepared to jog your memory as best you can.

If you are not able to answer the questions accurately or if you simply refuse to then you will not be able to proceed through the TSA security checkpoint and therefore you will not board your flight.

It’s worth pointing out that if you are traveling with an outstanding arrest warrant and you have to go through the identification verification process there is a good chance your warrant will be discovered and you could be arrested.

Get through security

After you have verified your identity, your journey is not complete. You will still need to go through the airport security checkpoint but you can expect to have to go through heightened security.

Most likely, a TSA agent will ask you to step aside while they go through the extra security steps with you. The exact process that you will have to go through will depend on the discretion of the TSA agents but some things that you can expect to encounter include:

  • Invasive pat down
  • Thorough search of all your belongings which means you will likely have to remove objects from your luggage
  • Extra x-ray scans
  • Swabs

The process will likely be similar to what you would experience if you were to have SSSS on your boarding pass.

I’m not sure what happens if you don’t have an ID but you have TSA Pre-Check, which normally allows you to bypass the main security line. I highly doubt that they would allow you to get in the Pre-Check line but stranger things have probably happened.

Related: TSA No Fly List Explained 

TSA agent searching a man
Expect a more invasive search if you do not have an ID.

Boarding the plane

Once you get through the security checkpoint, you can finally make your way to the gate for boarding. Your boarding pass should have a note that you do not have an ID on you and that should be enough to substitute for your ID to get you on a plane.

If you want to visit an airport lounge like a Centurion Lounge typically they will ask to see your identification. It’s not clear to me if airport lounges will allow you to enter without a valid ID. But you would think that if your TSA authenticated identity is good enough for boarding an airplane, it should be good enough to stroll into a lounge.

Once you arrive at the gate area, I would recommend to quickly check in with an agent at the gate and let them know that you have a boarding pass with no ID but that you have been verified by TSA.

That should help prevent any confusion at the time of boarding just in case the agents are not familiar with how to deal with the process.

Don’t try anything “funny”

If you don’t have your ID with you or any other secondary forms of ID, you might be tempted to try to sneak your way through security or try some other type of “funny business.”

This is a very bad idea because in addition to a potential criminal violation, you could also get hit with a civil fine from TSA.

So even if you are under stress trying to figure things out, don’t make any false statements or do anything that could be construed as you trying to circumvent security.

International flights

The situation is much different for international flights. You must have a passport to leave the country in almost every circumstance. Therefore, if you do not have a passport then you will almost certainly be grounded.

If you are currently abroad and you do not have a passport you should contact the local embassy or consulate and they will be able to help you based on your needs.

In some cases, they can issue you a limited-validity passport that allows you to gain entry back into the US but does not come with full travel privileges to visit other countries. If you don’t have an ID and there is an urgent emergency you should be able to get your request expedited.


Can you get a refund if you forget your ID?

Unfortunately, most airlines will not refund your ticket if you simply lost your ID. You may be able to negotiate with them so that you can board a later flight.

What age is required to have an ID to fly?

TSA does not require children under 18 to provide identification when traveling with a companion that has acceptable identification.

Can I travel with an expired ID?

Acceptable forms of ID cannot be more than 12 months past the identified expiration date. (Due to the coronavirus pandemic, agents are currently being lenient.)

What counts as a secondary form of ID?

There are a lot of different types of documents that can qualify as a secondary form of ID and some of these include:

Library card
Business card
Social Security card
Student ID
Credit cards
Photo of an ID
Prescription with your name on the label

Final word

Getting through TSA without an ID requires you to jump through a few extra hoops. As long as you give yourself enough time and comply with the process, you should still be able to board your plane without major issues. However, if you are departing on an international flight you likely will not be able to board your plane without a valid passport.

Bringing Sunscreen on a Plane: Don’t Get Burned by TSA’s Rules!

There’s nothing worse than turning into a lobster while on vacation. So naturally, many travelers take sunscreen with them through airport security every year, hoping to get protection from the unrelenting Sun.

But bringing sunscreen on a plane presents a few specific issues that you want to be aware of before you head to the airport.

In this article, we will break down all of the TSA rules and other FAA restrictions you need to think about when taking sunscreen through airport security.

Can you bring sunscreen on a plane?

Yes, you can bring sunscreen on a plane as a carry-on item as long as you comply with the TSA liquids 3.4 ounce rule. You can also bring sunscreen in your checked baggage but you need to be mindful of FAA restrictions on the quantity and size of bottles you can bring.

Be careful applying sunscreen before your flight because you could trigger the alarm if you get swabbed by a TSA agent. Also, be aware that certain states and countries banned certain types of sunscreens that contain chemicals that could be harmful to coral reefs.

If you want to know more about traveling with sunscreen through TSA, keep reading below!

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

Sunscreen bottle in sand

Important: Getting through airport security with sunscreen

If you were recently having fun in the sun and applying sunscreen before heading through airport security, be aware that some sunscreen or SPF products may contain glycerin.

That’s important because glycerin is one of the chemicals that can trigger the alarm whenever getting swabbed.

What does it mean to get swabbed?

One way that TSA agents try to keep passengers safe is by detecting whether or not passengers have come into contact with explosive materials. And one of the ways that they do this is by taking samples from the hands of passengers as well as their luggage contents.

If that sample contains traces of explosives, then the passenger will likely be subject to questioning and perhaps even a much more invasive search. That invasive search could involve a pat down and more swabbing which could take an extra 20 minutes or longer.

When going through airport security, you don’t always get swabbed but if you applied sunscreen containing glycerin on the day of your travels, there is a chance you would test positive if you got swabbed!

You can read more about what it’s like to get swabbed at the airport here.

Security officer swabbing

Bringing sunscreen as a carry-on (TSA liquids rule)

TSA allows you to bring liquids like sunscreen on board as long as they are contained within a container no larger than 3.4 fluid ounces or (100 mL) and all of those containers can fit comfortably inside of one clear quart sized bag (this is known as the TSA Liquids 3-1-1 Rule).

You will need to remove this liquids bag from your carry-on bag when going through the security checkpoint unless you have TSA Pre-Check.

Keep in mind that this will focus is on the size of your liquid container and not the amount of liquids on the inside.

For example, if you had a five ounce container of sunscreen but only 3 ounces of sunscreen on the inside, that would not be permitted. The actual container needs to have 3.4 ounces of volume or less.

Also, this 3.4 ounce limitation also applies to sunscreen spray or aerosol bottles. (If you plan on bringing a spray bottle of sunscreen make sure that you bring it with the cap attached).

It’s really easy to find travel bottles of sunscreen under 3.4 ounces so it shouldn’t be a problem to get a container of sunscreen lotion that can go with you.

If you have a larger bottle of sunscreen that you really like, it is possible for you to pour this into your own 3.4 ounce travel container. You could always write “sunscreen” on the bottle for a reminder and perhaps to give TSA a hint of what is in the bottle (although it is not necessary).

Sunscreen  bottles

I thought I could bring bigger bottles of sunscreen through TSA?

If you are a bit confused about the size limitation for sunscreen, it’s completely understandable.

At one point, TSA announced that they were going to allow sunscreen bottles larger than 3.4 ounces to be taken through security. This was apparently going to be done to help reduce the threat of skin cancer and UV damage to travelers.

In other words, sunscreen was going to be treated as a medically necessary liquid which would place it under the medical exception that allows for larger liquids bottles.

But as soon as this announcement was leaked it was rescinded and TSA clarified that sunscreen is still subject to the liquids 3.4 ounce rule.

“Our website incorrectly reported that sunscreen containers larger than 3.4 oz. were allowed in carry-on bags if medically necessary. That error has been corrected. Sunscreen in carry-on bags must be 3.4 oz. or less. Larger quantities should be placed in checked baggage.”

TSA security line

Flying with sunscreen in the cabin (applying it mid-flight)

Lots of people apply lotion during a flight because it helps them reduce uncomfortable dry skin but applying sunscreen during a flight would just be stupid, right?

Well, maybe not.

Marc Glashofer, M.D., a dermatologist and a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, told CN Traveler that it is possible to get sunburned on a plane.

But worse than that, the windows on a plane can be penetrated by UVA rays, which penetrate your skin to a deeper level and are often the culprit for causing skin cancer.

A lot of the risk pertains to pilots who are constantly in the air and exposed to UV rays via much larger windows than what a typical passenger is exposed to.

For example, one study in JAMA Dermatology found that a single hour flying at 30,000 feet could expose pilots to an equivalent amount of UV radiation that someone would get spending just 20 minutes in a tanning bed.

However, some reputable sources claim that plane windows block out a lot of the harmful UV rays including both UVA and UVB.

So the risk of skin cancer or UV damage is probably low for passengers.

But for skin conscious travelers, you may feel better about your seat selection if you have sunscreen on hand just in case that Sun starts to hit your face a little bit too much.

Of course, if you select the window seat it’s your choice to put down the window shade so you could always reduce that risk by just shutting the shade.

If you do decide to apply sunscreen in the cabin, just be careful about pulling out any type of bottles because your bottle could explode in the plane and create a big mess for everyone nearby.

A good way to avoid this is to squeeze out the air from the bottle whenever you are on the ground so that the air has room to expand at altitude.

Also, try to cover the nozzle with a bag (perhaps your liquids bag) whenever you open it so that if it does burst, it won’t get everywhere.

And finally, consider selecting sunscreen that does not contain a scent because it’s not very considerate to unleash a strong scent throughout the cabin.

Related: What Can I Bring In My Purse on a Plane?

Window view from plane

Bringing sunscreen in your checked baggage

When you travel with sunscreen in your checked baggage, you have to keep in mind the FAA restrictions on the total quantity and size of your medicinal and toiletry articles.

For checked baggage, the FAA states the capacity of each container must not exceed 0.5 kg (18 ounces) or 500 ml (17 fluid ounces). It should not be difficult to find sunscreen bottles smaller than 17 fluid ounces so you don’t have a lot to worry about in most cases.

The aggregate total of all of your toiletry items in your checked baggage cannot exceed 2 kg (70 ounces) or 2 L (68 fluid ounces).

Once again, if you have aerosol bottles make sure that you have them covered with the cap to prevent accidental release.

You also have to be mindful about the sunscreen bottle exploding in your luggage.

The best way to prevent something from happening is to try to squeeze out any air that you can before you place it in your checked baggage.

In addition to that, double bag the sunscreen and perhaps consider storing it in a separate compartment so that you can minimize the damage from a spill.

Luggage with bottle inside

Buying sunscreen at your destination

Sunscreen is one of the easiest items to find at any type of tourist destination or tropical vacation spot.

The problem is sunscreen at these places, especially in shops at all-inclusive resorts, can be extremely expensive. We’re talking $25 plus per bottle.

Talk about getting squeezed!

Moreover, they may not sell small bottles so you could be forced to buy a larger, more expensive bottle that you may only use a small portion of on your trip.

For this reason, I usually try to purchase a couple of small sunscreen bottles or spray canisters that I bring with us when we travel to tropical destinations.

(If I’m using checked baggage, I’ll just purchase a big bottle and bring that along.)

You can also look into packages that come with sunscreen. For example, if you were renting a car through Turo or other types of rental companies, sometimes you can get free sunscreen with your rental or just add it on.

Woman applying sunscreen at beach

Bringing sunscreen to different countries or states

Some sunscreens may not be allowed in certain countries or even certain states such as Hawaii.

There has been a growing trend of banning certain sunscreen ingredients because of the harm that they could do to reef systems. For example, Aruba banned sunscreens containing Oxybenzone.

In 2021, Hawaii banned sunscreens containing both oxybenzone and octinoxate as did the US Virgin Islands and Key West.

I’m sure many more will follow.

So if you are heading to a tropical destination where you might find coral reef or where scuba diving or snorkeling are popular, be sure to double check that your sunscreen is allowed.

Look for sunscreens that are labeled as “reef safe” or “biodegradable.” I personally use Coppertone Sport 50 SPF 4-in-1 that is free of many of the prohibited active ingredients.

In addition, you can consider purchasing diving shirts that block out UV rays so that you don’t have to worry about applying a lot of extra sunscreen.

Aruba beach

Final word

When traveling with sunscreen, you need to be mindful about the liquids rule and also be careful about applying sunscreen before you head to the airport because you could trigger the alarm if you get swabbed by TSA. If you put the bottles or spray canisters in your checked baggage make sure you comply with the FAA rules mentioned above.

And finally, try to bring your own sunscreen so that you can avoid getting burned by the hotel, and be mindful about the local laws that could prohibit certain types of sunscreen.

Also, watch this video:

What Does the TSA Do With Confiscated Items?

Every day, thousands of items don’t make it through TSA security checkpoints. Whether these are liquids or dangerous weapons, many travelers say goodbye to items for good after going through a screening.

But where exactly do these items end up that TSA confiscates? And also, is there any chance that you could be reunited with an item taken by TSA?

In this post, we will breakdown where these items and up and explore the options that you have to try to get your item back.

What does the TSA do with confiscated items?

If TSA decides to take possession of your item at a security checkpoint, they could hand the item over to the state who could then decide to donate the item, throw it away, or sell it on an online surplus auction or physical retail store.

TSA does not “confiscate” items

TSA does not “confiscate” items. Instead, they get passengers to “voluntarily abandon” property at the security checkpoints.

This is likely because TSA does not have police powers and there would be constitutional issues if they actively seized property from passengers.

So when you go through security and are found with an object that is not allowed through, there are a few different outcomes you can expect.

If you’re dealing with some type of liquid or aerosol that is not allowed then TSA will likely tell you to discard it or get you to agree to discarding it.

If you get caught with something dangerous or illegal then, depending on the severity of the infraction, TSA could refer your item and yourself to law-enforcement.

If it is just an everyday item that is not allowed but does not present a threat, then TSA should give you the ability to exit the security line and then figure out a solution.

I have seen some reports of people feeling like they don’t have the option to exit security so sometimes this option may not be presented to you as clearly as it should.

When you’re trying to figure out what to do with your object after exiting security, there are several different routes you can take including:

  • Putting the item in checked baggage
  • Delivering it to your home or a hotel via rideshare
  • Putting it back in your vehicle or giving it to a friend
  • Utilizing an airside lost and found
  • Mail it back to your house
  • Utilize an airport locker

We did an article on how to handle these situations so be sure to check out that article for more.

Common items handed over to TSA

The most common item surrendered to TSA is probably an oversized liquid.

David Holbrook, a TSA supervisor, said “the most common prohibited items seen are ‘oversized liquids,’ such as bottles of soda, water, bug spray and sunscreen.” I’d venture to guess that other toiletries like toothpaste are commonly taken as well.

Pocket knives and other small knives are also one of the most common items that are handed over (and kept). Many people just forget that they have them in their bags or they think that small knives are allowed (it’s common for other countries to allow blades under 2.3 inches).

Sharp objects like corkscrews and other prohibited tools and multi-tools are also common. Pepper spray is another pretty common object that gets taken although sometimes it gets through and was even once released in the cabin!

Where the items go after they are in TSA’s possession

So what happens to all of the objects that are voluntarily abandoned to TSA? Where exactly do they end up?

Well, first let’s be clear that these items do not end up with TSA officers.

TSA has a strict policy against allowing agents to take these objects home and TSA is not allowed to profit off of them.

Instead, TSA will collect all of the items that are surrendered and and then probably ship them to a warehouse where the ownership is transferred to the state. (Unclaimed Lost and Found items may be included in the shipment as well.)

The state can then choose to do whatever it wants with them. Typically, this would mean donating the items or putting them in some type of surplus auction, where they could be sold at a fraction of the price of their value.

Sometimes, the items to be donated go to a local county police department. For example, things like knives, guns, gun parts, ammunition, tasers, etc. could be given to a local police force or even the military.

I’ve heard that pepper spray could also be given to police but others report that these items are disposed of along with other flammable items, such as hairspray.

Sometimes schools could be in the running to receive certain items like scissors or other supplies that they could put to use.

When donating is not an option or not desired, the object will be sent to a state agency as surplus property and then could end up on one of the auction websites like:

On the Public Surplus website, you can use the category filter for airports to see items taken from airports. You could also use the select region filter to filter down your results to whichever airport you were traveling through. (The few times I’ve checked the website for airport listings, it’s been a pretty short list.)

GSA Auctions also has a similar feature so that you can filter results down by state but note some only use GSA Auctions for federal personal property.

On GovDeals you can search by location or by category including for specific items like knives.

GovDeals screen

Different states may have specific eBay accounts that they use to sell the items. So, for example in the past if you were looking for an item taken from an Oregon airport, the eBay seller account was: oregontrail2000.

Other times, a seller may have purchased items from TSA and could be reselling (flipping) the items so the seller could be just your average eBay user. If that’s the case, then chances are you may not be getting as good of a deal as you could find when buying directly from a surplus account.

To find items on eBay search for things like “TSA confiscated knives” and you should see a lot of different results pop up. Like the other auction sites, lots of times you will find items sold in bulk but you can also find individual items or smaller group listings.

ebay listings

Is it possible to track down your item on an auction site?

These auctions mean that in theory you could check these websites after you have surrendered an item to TSA and possibly retrieve it.

However, I would not count on this working because of a few reasons.

First, as already mentioned, it’s possible your item could be donated to any number of agencies, including the military or different police forces. If that happens, the only way you’re getting that item back as if you have some serious connections and inside knowledge.

Second, it’s possible that the TSA or state agency just doesn’t see value in your item and could have chosen to throw it away. Or, it could’ve just got lost in the process somewhere.

Third, as evidenced by the photos seen above your item could also be sold in “bulk.”

So your single pocket knife could be dropped in a lot of 30+ other small knives. The auction sites usually have photos but your knife may not even be featured (or visible) in the photo of the bulk listing. Or worse, the auction site might just be using a generic photo of knives for that listing.

Sometimes the surplus items could end up offline and in a surplus retail store and in that case, you would have to know what retail stores to look for.

A cluster of airports in a given state may all use the same surplus retail store so you could narrow down your search to a single physical store. But because items can be consolidated to one shop that means you could be forced to drive several hours to get to that store.

For example, in Texas surplus items could end up at a retail store in Austin even if those objects were taken from airports in Dallas, Fort Worth, and Houston. Unless they have inventory available on a real time basis on their website, you could be driving several hours only to waste your time!

How do I know TSA agents are not stealing my item?

In the past, TSA agents have been busted for stealing items.

As disappointing as that is, it should not be a shock given the size of the TSA organization and how many interactions they have on a daily basis. In short, there are always going to be some bad apples.

However, when it comes to items “confiscated” by TSA, I do think that the odds of TSA agents stealing something are probably pretty low. This is mostly because the value of the items taken by TSA security checkpoints is typically not going to be very high.

So the risk to reward ratio would not be worth it for a lot of TSA agents. I mean, I could see someone stealing an iPad for a quick win but risking a job for a $15 pocket knife? That wouldn’t make as much sense. Could it still happen? Of course, but I don’t think it would be very common.

Final word

TSA does not have police powers which prevents them from being able to seize property in the same way that law-enforcement could.

For this reason, they get passengers to voluntarily abandon their property at security checkpoints when the item is not allowed through or the passenger does not have an alternative.

Once the property is in TSA’s possession, they hand it over to the state who then can donate it, dispose of it, or sell it at a retail surplus store or online auction.

While it is technically possible to track down your item after it is confiscated, your odds of successfully doing this are probably very low due to a multitude of factors.

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