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5 Times ATC Will Give You Priority Handling

This story was made in partnership with LIFT Academy. Check out the full series here. Want to be a pilot? Get started with LIFT Academy here.

Do you know when ATC will give you priority over other aircraft? There's more to it than just emergency situations...

1) You Have An Emergency

Above all else, "an aircraft in distress has the right of way over all other air traffic" according to the FAA. Anytime you declare an emergency, you'll have priority handling with ATC.

Swayne Martin

2) You Declare Minimum Fuel

Declaring min fuel doesn't constitute an emergency, but rather informs ATC that upon reaching the destination it cannot accept delays. This tells ATC you will enter an emergency situation if you do experience a delay as you approach your destination. ATC will give you priority in this case.


3) You've Diverted

If they're able to, controllers are supposed to give priority handling to diverted flights. The code "DVRSN" is used with your callsign to indicate that you diverted.


4) You're Flying With A "MEDEVAC" Callsign

Whether you're carrying organs in cargo or flying a patient under an air ambulance operation, you could have the callsign "MEDEVAC" added to your flight. If your medevac flight is inbound or outbound, ATC can give you priority.

5) You're Flying A Special Operation

There are plenty of special operations that get priority as well. Flying flight check for the FAA, transporting government personnel, flying as a part of a presidential entourage, and Search And Rescue (SAR) missions are just a few examples.


Have you ever experienced one of these first-hand? Tell us in the comments below.

Thinking about becoming a pilot? Get started with Lift Academy, and find out what it takes to start your aviation career here.

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and a First Officer on the Boeing 757/767 for a Major US Carrier. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018, holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525), is a former pilot for Mokulele Airlines, and flew Embraer 145s at the beginning of his airline career. Swayne is an author of articles, quizzes and lists on Boldmethod every week. You can reach Swayne at, and follow his flying adventures on his YouTube Channel.

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