Using Elite Security Lines When You Aren’t Entitled to Do So

When readers shared their own travel tips and several really stood out as worth highlighting.

This one simply amused me, I’ll explain why in a minute.

Jacob said,

If you don’t have status flash expired airline status cards at security to go through elite lane

It brought back memories of perhaps the most controversial travel-related blog post I’ve ever seen, when Million Mile Secrets wrote about how to fake an entitlement to priority security lines.

In the US, I’ve been able to go through the airport elite status line just by showing a card – sometimes a regular frequent flyer card which I got for free just by signing up for a program – to the agent manning the shorter elite lines!…

Sometimes it is just a regular frequent flyer card for an obscure foreign airline which you can get for free, sometimes I show my Southwest Companion Pass card and get access to the shorter lines for Southwest business ticket holders and A-List members, and sometimes I show my American Airlines gold card and get access to the United (or other airline) elite lane!

Star Alliance member Asiana’s base program level is called ‘Silver’ but I do not believe that they issue cards to non-elites any longer.

I don’t recall the last time I wasn’t entitled to use an elite security line in the U.S. Internationally I’ve rarely ever experienced long lines. My favorite approach is at an airport like Singapore where security is done separately at each gate.

And increasingly I’ve had access to PreCheck, I’m even looking forward to the introduction of PreCheck on the American Airlines pier at my home airport Washington National (I’ll no longer have to clear security at the far pier and take US Airways’ airside shuttle across).

Clearly from the comments on that other blog’s post, this is a controversial topic but I don’t think I have a problem asking for access to an elite security line without an actual entitlement to do so.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. yup i remember that blog post by Daraius and the storm of criticism he got! wow. I agree with you though that I wouldn’t have any problem asking to be on that line without the entitlement either. Nothing wrong with asking!

  2. With the advent of smartphone boarding passes I feel it would be trivial to simply Photoshop the words “Premier Access” (or equivalent) onto a screenshot of the pass.

  3. I have pre-check plus AA & DL Plat – but, without them, since it appears most FIRST CLASS or equivalent priority lines are staffed by the home-turf airline, showing another airline’s priority or premium card, or yes a foreign airline (who knows) could very well routinely work. but since you’re got pre-check, does it matter much? doesn’t pre-check almost always trump priority lines?

  4. Jason, it’s one thing to try to use an expired or other status card “by mistake”. It’s quite another to deliberately create a forgery. Somehow, I don’t think the authorities would consider it “trivial”.

  5. Def no issue with asking to use the line but faking a pass??? C’mon, really??

    That is exactly what is wrong with many people today. I’m not entitled to something but I want it so I’ll just lie, cheat or steal my way there.


  6. Given that tsa is essentially a government service, and security bs is forced on everyone, it’s distasteful that a premium level of service is being sold, so I’m fine with it since I don’t think the elite security line should exist in the first place.

  7. I suppose I should’ve added that I’m not encouraging any forgery, but since we’re on the topic of gaining unauthorized access to elite security lines, it was the first method that came to my mind.

    There once existed (and may still exist) websites offering completely fake printable boarding passes for people who aren’t flying at all but want to enter the secure area of an airport.

  8. If I was an elite, I sure wouldn’t want to be caught in a line behind a bunch of line crashers trying to get away with this. Either they do get away with it and it delays me, or they don’t get away with it, and it still delays me. I think it’s a very bad idea.

  9. I got busted showing an expired status card at the PDX security checkpoint last year–I was entitled to use the line but hadn’t realized that the card in my wallet was expired. I was able to use the elite line once I showed my boarding pass–why I fished into my wallet for the card instead of showing the BP in my hand in the first place, I have no idea.

  10. @Scott
    Elite security lines are offered by the airlines, not TSA / government. Anything before the guy or gal that checks your ID is controlled by airline or airport contractors. As for Pre-Check, yes it’s a government program but the fee you are paying is essentially for them to do the background check and run the program.

    You could just buy a refundable ticket and cancel it once you get through the security checkpoint. Completely legitimate. I wouldn’t want to be caught with a fake boarding pass.

  11. Gary, just curious, how do you feel waiting on line for the bathroom in J or F when you know there’s a coach person inside and a coach person ahead of you.

  12. @Paul I’ve done exactly that–bought a refundable ticket on UA, escorted my girlfriend to the gate and then refunded it when I got home. Worked like a charm.

    Note that the day I decided to try it, I also thought about just modding the HTML on her boarding pass, which I believe would have worked fine in the past, but now they have these 3D barcodes on all the BP’s which the TSA agents scan, so if you were to try to use a forged one (or one which didn’t match your name), you could be in for some trouble, or at least questioned at length if thing didn’t sync up. 😛

  13. In BRU, the elite security queue is unmanned. Instead, access is controlled via a turnstile that opens only upon scanning an eligible boarding pass. Seems like an excellent solution to the problem and saves the cost of a contractor to man the queue.

  14. I’m not sure what airports you guys are flying in/out of, but I am hard pressed to think of an airport that actually has someone checking whether or not someone is eligible for the elite line. 90% of the airports I fly through, it’s just another line, and anybody could walk in if they wanted, and the first person you’re going to see is the TSA person checking ID’s, and by that point, it doesn’t matter.

    The only time I can think of someone checking in the last year of travel for me was T1 at LAX and occasionally the US/American terminal at TPA.

  15. Fondly remember Dariaus of MMS admitting how big a DB he is in real life by faking his elite status. It’s just another manifestation of DYKWIA type behavior/entitlement that makes travel so dispiriting at times. If you didn’t earn (or pay) for status/expedited treatment, don’t try to scam your way and join the self-entitled DB crowd as Dariaus does.

  16. Agree with Andrew – at LHR it’s airport-employed security staff that man the entrance to the fast track line and do the biometric check prior to boarding and they couldn’t care less who was an elite – sadly devalues the benefit quite a bit (esp now BA Bronze also get priority boarding).

    Diagree though re security at the gate – I hate this as it means you’ve got to leave the lounge much earlier to make sure you don’t miss the flight due to being held up at security, I much prefer to have done all this prior to the lounge and only have to walk to the gate.

  17. @beachfan many airlines announce that passengers are supposed to use the lavatories in their ticketed cabins, but that notwithstanding I don’t much think about it!

  18. If I’m elite on Airline A, and traveling on Airline B, I just show my Airline A status card. Works almost every time. (The one time it didn’t work, I was tempted to thank the agent for doing her job properly.) 🙂

  19. Since our counterproductive security theater has diddly squat to do with elite status I see no problem with “faking” priority status to get through America’s zero privacy security checkpoints. This is coming from someone who has priority line status with US, UA, and AA so don’t waste my time with your elite status sob story. If you were an actual big shot you wouldn’t be flying commercial in the first place so get over yourself.

  20. I have on the fence about the wether using old expired or International programs that are confusion as to if this card provides the real access desired by the travelers . Hovever there is a clearly unethical behavior going on. Prioriety boarding for the people reuiring assisttancene. Having to use the wheelchair for transportation through the airport is stressful. I frequently worry that I will miss my plan even when arrive ahead 2 hour before departture. People who do not need assistance need to free up the lines to allow the honest travelers to move through.

  21. (This is an second draft of the first answer I submitted earlier this pm. I am on the fence whether using expired or International programs that are presented implying a status the card does not confur a Priority status for the TSA scan is confusion as to if this card provides the real access desired by the travelers . Hovever there is a clearly unethical behavior going on. Prioriety boarding for the people requiring assisttancene, wheelchair, legally blind, new bonorn or young travelers ao Having to use the wheelchair for transportation through the airport is stressful. I frequently worry that I will miss my plan even when arrive ahead 2 hour before departture. People who do not need assistance need to free up the lines to allow the honest travelers to move through.

  22. I used to fly Alaska airlines weekly SFO-PDX and would put in my BA freq flyer number and then tell them I was “Executive Club” and show my BP to get expedited security. 🙂

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