Would You Pay $9 for Less Airport Hassle?

United Airlines announced this week that it’s expanding some services that could get more passengers through security more quickly and allow them to cut-in-line for earlier boarding. A big deal is being made about the small fee – but there are a couple of catches you should know about.

$9 Fee – What You Get

First, let’s look at the new Premier Access option. According to United, you pay a fee and receive the following:

  • Expedited check-in
  • Access to “exclusive security lanes”
  • Priority boarding

These perks, formerly available only to United’s most elite travelers, are now open to other travelers and as several news organizations are reporting rather breathlessly,  passengers will get a “faster trip through security for $9.” It must be noted that the price begins at $9 and could go higher.

See if you’re eligible for fast security with PreCheck

$9 Fee – What’s the Catch

  • What you pay and what you get:
  • $9 is a starting point only: the price goes up depending on the flight and you may pay more
  • Fee is charged per flight segment: you may pay multiple times depending on the number of connections
  • Only available in a few airports: find it in 29 U.S. airports, see the list here
  • Availability uncertain: United has said it will “limit the number of customers who may purchase Premier Access benefits” to ensure availability to elite travelers, so you may not get it when you want it

Could this ‘managed inclusion’ program let you zip through security?

Other Ways to Get Through Airports Faster

Could it be worth it? Yes, depending on the price and your needs. And more airlines – and even a federal agency – are doing something similar.

  • Southwest: The airline has offered EarlyBird boarding for a flat $10 for some years now, but recently expanded this to a last-minute $40 early boarding fee, available at the airport only
  • American: The airline has expanded its Choice product into a bundled fee that include a free bag, no change fee and early boarding for $68
  • TSA: Elite flyers can access the fast PreCheck lines, or pay a yearly fee to join a government program that will get you in


Published: February 28, 2013