How to Skip an Airline Queue

Maybe we shouldn’t tout skipping an airline queue as this is not our most noble piece of advice. But there are also far worse things in this world. And because many airlines charge to check baggage and don’t restrict carry on baggage as much, the overhead compartments are often full. So if you’re randomly in the final boarding zone, you could be separated from your baggage if you don’t know better.

Airline Priority Boarding

Airlines like Delta always load business class and loyalty customers first, followed by families with small children and people with disabilities. Please don’t pretend that you have a child or disability if you don’t.

We are frequently surprised by families that do not take advantage of this early boarding option for them. Perhaps their children have beaten their daily life forces out and they are simply incapable of paying attention to announcements.

Airplane Boarding Zones

Following these groups come the zones for economy class, usually listed 1-4. Airlines want to load the back of the plane first, as this allows for a more efficient boarding process. So zone 1 is essentially the back of the plane and zone 4 is the front of the plane.  People hover around the airline queue waiting for their zone to be called. Thing is, most airline personnel do not actually care what zone you are sitting in when making the announcements. They typically just pretend (albeit not always). Bell does not like doing this, but because of the carry on baggage issue, I go for it.

Worst case, they just make you wait until it’s your turn. Play dumb of course. Oops, I thought it was my turn!

Skipping an Airline Queue

While airlines might say they are only boarding zone 1, you can board with a different zone and they will still smile, scan your ticket and tell you to enjoy your flight. We’ve seldom had a problem jumping the airline queue. Worst case, they just make you wait until it’s your turn. Play dumb and tell them you misheard the announcement!

Ensure you Sit Near Your Carry on Bag

When skipping an airline queue, insure that carry on bags aren’t randomly placed elsewhere on the plane. If you don’t have higher status through rewards or miles, there is a better chance of finding space in the overhead compartment.

If you’re one of the last passengers “allowed” to board, and the overhead compartments are full, airlines in the USA will check your baggage free of charge. Problem is, maybe that’s where your entertainment, medication or even a CPAP machine for sleep apnea are.

Airline staff are in a hurry to get everyone seated. That way the plane can taxi from the gate for an on time departure. Don’t get separated from your important belongings. On a full flight, a few people get screwed, but why should it be you? Maybe one day we’ll even have the opportunity to skip airline queues for flights to the moon!

Other solutions to skip an airline queue include priority status on airlines. Perhaps that’s the more ethical way. But many people earn priority status through unethical means. Certain travel reward cards help with earning priority status quickly!

Read our ultimate travel hacks to learn how to save thousands on travel, while traveling in style! 


  • Alex&Bell

    Alex and Bell originally met while solo traveling after finishing university in 2002, in Brugge, Belgium. Alex grew up in the USA and Bell hails from Australia. During our nearly 20 year marriage we've lived around the world, including spending six years living in the Netherlands and Ireland. We have traveled to nearly 70 countries and enjoy giving readers authentic and quality travel tips. Alex is an award winning travel journalist and travel planner, who also freelances for other outlets. Bell is an award winning PhD scientist who currently works for a non-profit lung cancer advocacy research organization called Lungevity. Happy travels and if you have any questions leave a comment or drop an email!

    View all posts

5 thoughts on “How to Skip an Airline Queue

  1. I hate it if there is no room in the overhead compartment left. Interesting that you could jump queues with American airlines (although my hubby would never do it as he is so frightfully British and they all love their queuing. 🙂 ) In Europe the cheap airlines are always very strict on boarding priority (especially Easyjet). If you are in group B for example and go into lane A they will send you back to the end of queue B. Doh! 🙂

  2. Good to know that American Airlines are less strict than Europeans when it comes to pushing in. Easyjet in particular would send someone who pushed in from boarding group B to A right to the back of the queue of group B again. Doh! 🙂 My hubby would never allow me to push in anyway though as he is so frightfully British (who all love queuing). 🙂

    1. Ohh yes, the “carry on” suitcases some people take in the States is a joke, Ryan Air would seriously fall over laughing, and most European carriers also wouldn’t consider these as carry on!! But that is why there is often no overhead space even for a laptop bag, drives both of us nuts! But we think it has a lot to do with nearly all airlines in the US charging for a checked bag now. Whereas over here in Europe, if you fly discount it’s up to you how discount that ticket really is, but if you fly KLM and pay their price you get your bag.

    1. You should, it’s worth it and no problem. We’ve never tried skipping more than 1 zone though (Bell won’t let me ;))

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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