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Priority boarding often a perk worth paying for

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Priority boarding often a perk worth paying for

By George Hobica

Airfarewatchdog.com

If you've ever stood in line at security at Chicago's O'Hare airport or Las Vegas' McCarran or Miami International on a Saturday morning when all the cruise ships disgorge their passengers, you probably already know – as bad as security lines can get elsewhere, they always seem to be worse at the busiest airports. Like, miss-your-flight worse.

Say, though, the mess was at Terminal 1 – United's home turf. No need to hang around, waiting on line. These days, anyone can zip straight on through, just like the first class people and the MileagePlus members with big piles of status. Got a nonrefundable, screw-you-don't-even-ask, steerage class ticket in the very last row with no seat recline next to the overflowing toilet? No problem, madam or sir – kindly step right into the VIP line.

That is, as long as you can show proof that you purchased Premier Line access, available at the ticket kiosk for $9 and up per flight. This little add-on guarantees you'll be fast-tracked through the security line and that you'll board ahead of the bulk of economy class. (Book it in advance, and you'll get priority check-in, too.)

Sound like a steal? It can be. The $20 or so we spent to make a New York flight from O'Hare a couple of Christmases ago, a flight that was one of the last to take off before a snowstorm hit the Midwest? Completely worth it. In fact, we might have paid a whole lot more than $20, had we known what was about to happen.

United's service is a pretty unique one – while other airlines are also now selling off benefits that used to be reserved for their elite customers, the guaranteed security line jump isn't yet a typical offering, by any means. Maybe in the future, but for now, most airlines that do sell any type of hurry-up benefits restrict them simply to priority boarding, once you get to the gate.

Who's doing cool stuff, and who's just trying to raise more revenue through depressing fees? We took six current programs that offer priority benefits at a similarly low price – and picked them apart in this handy chart.

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