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Getting through the airport can sometimes be an extremely stressful experience. Whether it is dealing with those dreaded long security lines, trying to secure valuable overhead storage bin space, or waiting for what seems like an eternity to get your checked baggage from baggage claim, frustration can mount at various times.
Luckily, there are some programs that can help remedy these situations. One of these programs is called United Airlines Premier Access, and I have had a lot of experience with it.
In this comprehensive article, I will discuss all of the benefits of United Premier Access and give you some insight into whether or not these benefits are worth it. I’ll also show you which airports offers these benefits and what to expect.
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What is United Premier Access?
United Premier Access is a collection of benefits that allows certain customers to have a more convenient airport experience from the time of check-in, through the time of boarding, and even when picking up their luggage. These benefits are only offered to specific United customers and I’ll discuss who is eligible below.
How do I get United Premier Access?
United Premier Access is available for the following customers:
- MileagePlus Premier members
- Travelers in United Polaris business class, United First and United Business
- Star Alliance Gold members
- MileagePlus Club and Presidential Plus credit cardmembers
- Those who purchase Premier Access for a particular flight.
Customers traveling on the same reservation as someone who is eligible to receive complimentary Premier Access will also receive complimentary Premier Access.
MileagePlus Premier members
If you are a MileagePlus Premier member (meaning you hold elite status with United Airlines), then you will be offered United Premier Access with all of your tickets.
Here are the different elite statuses with United Airlines and how to achieve them.
|Premier level||PQF and PQP Requirement|
|Premier Silver||12 PQF and 4,000 PQP or 5,000 PQP|
|Premier Gold||24 PQF and 8,000 PQP or 10,000 PQP|
|Premier Platinum||36 PQF and 12,000 PQP or 15,000 PQP|
|Premier 1K||54 PQF and 18,000 PQP or 24,000 PQP|
There is also the invite-only status of Global Services as well.
Travelers in United Polaris business class, United First and United Business
If you are flying business class or first class, then you will be offered United Premier Access. This includes domestic flights so you do not need to be taking an international flight to get access.
In addition to the Premier Access perks, you will also be able to check in free baggage with an increased weight allowance. For example, on a typical domestic flight you could check two bags in for free and their weight allowance would be up to 70 pounds (up from 50). To find out more about United baggage fees click here.
Star Alliance Gold members
If you are a Star Alliance Gold member, then you should be given access.
MileagePlus Club and Presidential Plus credit cardmembers
If you are a United Club and/or Presidential Plus credit cardmember, you will get access.
The United Club Card is a great card for people who fly United and are interested in taking advantage of perks like free bags and priority check-in and who value United airport lounge access.
In addition to Premier Access, you’ll earn 1.5X United miles on all purchases with the United Club Card which is nice but the biggest perk is that you get access to United Clubs, which are United airport lounges found all across the country. (You’ll also get access to participating Star Alliance affiliated lounges worldwide.)
Purchase Premier Access
You can now purchase Premier Access. A Premier Access purchase includes priority check-in, security lane access (where available) and boarding, but it does not include priority baggage handling. Prices, starting at $15, are segment-based, and subject to change.
You can purchase Premier Access on united.com anytime from booking through check-in. This means that you can call the United customer service number and request this purchase or you can even make the purchase at a check-in kiosk at the airport.
You may have the option to purchase Premier Access for one segment of your trip or all of your segments — it just depends. You can also purchase it for multiple people on your itinerary. Keep in mind that Premier Access purchases are generally nonrefundable (unless a flight is canceled).
Also, remember that if you purchase a basic economy ticket you cannot purchase Premier Access.
Whether paying $15 dollars for this benefit is worth it or not will depend on the person and on the airport that they are traveling through. For example, if you are traveling through a major airport that you know is backed up during the peak holiday travel season, then it could absolutely be worth it to pay $15 to avoid those depressingly long lines.
However, if you are just traveling through an ordinary airport at non-peak/busy times and you already have something like TSA pre-check, then you likely won’t get that much benefit from this.
How do I know I have United Premier Access?
You can verify that you have United Premier Access by checking your boarding pass. You should be able to see it on your mobile boarding pass or if you have printed out a boarding pass it should be on the top of the boarding pass as shown below.
United Premier Access benefits
Here are the United Premier Access benefits.
- Premier Access check-in
- Premier Access security lane
- Premier Access priority boarding
- Premier Access priority baggage handling
Premier Access check-in
The first benefit that you will notice when you arrive at an airport that has Premier Access perks, is that you will have a dedicated area to check in.
The Premier Access check-in lines are often very short compared to the standard check-in lines available to the public. In fact, most times I have checked in, I have been able to go immediately up to the desk at IAH.
There will usually be lines for different levels of elite status at the Premier Access check-in. For example, you might see a line for 1K and a line for Global Services. But if there are no elite members in those lines, you should be able to check in at those desks even if you have lower elite status.
Premier Access priority check-in lines are available at all airports United serves.
Premier Access security lane
You will also have special access to the Premier Access security lane. This security line should be much shorter than the standard security lines available to the public. Also, sometimes the Premier Access security lane is shorter than the TSA Pre-Check line.
So, you often have to make a judgment call on which line to go into. I would typically choose the TSA Pre-Check line because those are usually quicker and you will not have to take off/out your shoes, jacket, electronics, and liquids. The exception would be if the Premier Access security lane is just moving much quicker than the TSA Pre-Check line.
Some airports provide you with TSA “light” benefits when you go through the Premier Access security lane. For example, you may not have to remove your laptop or remove your liquids or something along those lines. You might even be funneled into the TSA Pre-Check screening.
So getting the Premier Access security lane is nice, but TSA Pre-Check will often be better. To read more about TSA Pre-Check, click here.
Premier Access priority check-in airport locations
Premier Access priority check-in and boarding are available at all airports United serves, but access to priority security lines is offered only at the following airports:
- Albuquerque (ABQ)
- Amsterdam, Netherlands (AMS)
- Anchorage (ANC)
- Austin (AUS)
- Baltimore-Washington International (BWI)
- Boston Logan (BOS)
- Brussels, Belgium (BRU)
- Chicago O’Hare (ORD)
- Cleveland (CLE)
- Columbus (CMH)
- Dallas Fort Worth (DFW)
- Denver (DEN)
- Detroit (DTW)
- Fort Lauderdale (FLL)
- Fort Myers (RSW)
- Guam (GUM)
- Harlingen (HRL)
- Hartford (BDL)
- Honolulu (HNL)
- Houston Intercontinental (IAH)
- Jacksonville (JAX)
- Kansas City (MCI)
- Las Vegas (LAS)
- Los Angeles (LAX)
- Melbourne, Australia (MEL)
- Miami (MIA)
- Milan, Italy (MXP)
- Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP)
- Nashville (BNA)
- New York LaGuardia (LGA)
- New York/Newark (EWR)
- Oklahoma City (OKC)
- Orange County (SNA)
- Orlando (MCO)
- Panama City, Panama (PTY)
- Paris, France (CDG)
- Pensacola (PNS)
- Philadelphia (PHL)
- Phoenix (PHX)
- Pittsburgh (PIT)
- Portland, Oregon (PDX)
- Providence (PVD)
- Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (PUJ)
- Quebec City, QC Canada (YQB)
- Raleigh-Durham (RDU)
- Reno (RNO)
- Richmond (RIC)
- Rochester, NY (ROC)
- Sacramento (SMF)
- Salt Lake City (SLC)
- San Antonio (SAT)
- San Francisco (SFO)
- Savannah (SAV)
- Seattle (SEA)
- Singapore, Singapore (SIN)
- St. Louis (STL)
- Sydney, Australia (SYD)
- Tampa (TPA)
- Tulsa (TUL)
- Washington Dulles (IAD)
- Washington National (DCA)
- West Palm Beach (PBI)
Additional airports may be added in the future.
Your boarding group will be determined based on the way that you obtained United Premier Access. If you have elite status, then you will board according to the established boarding groups that United publishes. Depending on your status, you could be boarding with pre-boarding, Group 1, or Group 2.
If you purchased United Premier Access or obtained priority boarding via a United credit card, then you will be boarding in Group 2. Here is a look at all of the United boarding groups to give you an idea of how the boarding process works.
- Unaccompanied minors
- Customers with disabilities
- Active members of the military
- United Global Services members
- Families traveling with children age 2 and younger
- Premier 1K members
- Premier Platinum members
- Premier Gold members
- Star Alliance Gold members
- Customers seated in premium cabins: United Polaris, United First and United Business
- Premier Silver members
- Star Alliance Silver members
- Customers who have purchased Premier Access or Priority Boarding
- United Explorer, Club, Presidential Plus and Awards Cardmembers
Groups 3 – 5
- Economy Plus
- United Economy
- Basic Economy
Tip: As you might be able to tell, there are a lot of people who can board with Group 2. As a result, if you want to take advantage of the priority boarding then you should try to get in line for Group 2 as early as possible.
Premier Access priority baggage handling
When you check your bags, the agents should place a specific tag on your luggage for priority baggage handling. In theory, this tag should allow your bag to be one of the first bags that is unloaded off of the plane and so you should be able to be one of the first passengers to pick up your bag.
However, this does not always work out and so this benefit can be a bit hit or miss. In fact, many report that their bags are rarely the first to come out so I would be reluctant to place a lot of value on this perk. In my personal experience, my bags have come out first over 50% of the time.
Do I get lounge access?
Unfortunately, you will not get lounge access with United Premier Access. However, if you had one of the credit cards like the United Explorer Card, then you can get a couple of annual complementary lounge passes and also get some of the Premier Access benefits like priority boarding.
Premier Priority Desk phone number
Overall, United Premier Access offers a lot of benefits that will make your airport experience much more convenient and streamlined. However, the value that you get from these benefits will often depend on the the times of the day and year that you travel, how frequently you travel, and also will be dependent upon the airport that you are frequenting.
UponArriving has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. UponArriving and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. His content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.