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Senior Citizens Want Priority Boarding – Are Airline Cards the Ticket?

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Senior at the airport

Can our elders get priority boarding without elite status?

You’d think that airlines would establish a policy letting senior citizens board a plane early. We owe as much to them as we do our military, and you’d think they would get the same honor as our servicemen do when boarding a plane.

I mention this because a friend’s mother – 75 years old – just purchased the more expensive American Airlines Choice Essential Fare on a long-haul flight strictly for the privilege of priority boarding. She’s in great shape and moves well, but she’s diminutive and often needs assistance getting her bag into the overhead bin and getting settled in her seat. In fact, that’s all the more reason to board seniors with servicemen. The latter would gladly assist the former!

Anyway, one can’t fault American for its new fare structure. Priority boarding is a perk, and if the airlines can get additional revenue for this privilege, then more power to them.

Yet, many senior citizens are living on a fixed income, and every dollar counts. In this case, the fare differential was substantial. Was there another way she could have obtained priority boarding? What other options might exist?

Seniors can get priority boarding with airline credit cards

Many airlines are now offering perks with some of their credit cards. As of this writing on July, 15, 2014, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® offers priority boarding on American Airlines flights. So does the United MileagePlus® Explorer Card, and you even get a couple of United Club passes each year.

If a senior citizen is going to fly even once a year, the annual fee associated with the card is likely worth the expense, considering the additional cost of a Choice Essential fare on American. When you factor in the free first checked bag with these credit card offers, it makes even more sense.

» MORE: 7 Ways your credit card could save you money on holiday travel

The upgrade option for cardholders

Hopefully, my friend’s mother would be able sock away enough miles to upgrade to business class, where she can (and should) travel in style. As people get older, they either empty out their frequent flyer accounts as they anticipate less travel, or they collect them like mad to earn the very perks we’re discussing.

The customer rep option for priority boarding

Seniors should note: There is nothing to lose by calling the airline 24 hours before the flight and asking for priority boarding. All it takes is a good explanation and a sympathetic rep. Even asking for a supervisor isn’t unreasonable. What’s particularly important in the pitch is to say, “I know that priority boarding is an earned or paid privilege, and I really don’t mean to overstep the airline’s rules, but …”

Seniors can seek priority boarding at the gate

Ultimately, a senior’s best chance is at the gate. Arriving early, talking to someone that is preferably in a red jacket or the senior gate agent, and being really nice is a good way to go. Always show respect for those who have paid or earned status, apologize for any inconvenience, and ask for the courtesy. You never know.

Happy senior image via Shutterstock