First, let’s define gate lice, according to Urban Dictionary…
Passenger, often inexperienced flyers in Kettle Class, who crowd around or line up at a gate at an airport completely blocking the boarding area and preventing First and Business Class passengers from being able to get on the plane when they’re allowed to. They can also cause delays and confusion if a passenger in a wheelchair needs to board as the chair has to plow through the mass of gate lice hovering around the gate. When it’s time to board, they have to be shooed from the front boarding area to the back of the line, delaying the flight for everyone.“We should probably head to the plane early before the gate lice show up”.“I don’t understand why those people were being gate lice. Don’t they know Zone 4 means you board last ?”
Yup. That sounds about right. I think United’s new boarding process is pretty weak. If you’re any sort of elite or have a United MileagePlus Explorer credit card, you’re allowed to board in the Premier Access lane. Great. Well, that group pretty much covers the entire darn plane. Don’t believe me? Check out the picture below.
Note the swarm of people crowding the Premier Access lane. How many people are in the economy lane? Let’s check that out.
Zero. Zilch. None.
Way to go, United. In your effort to make everyone feel special, you’ve made nobody feel special. In fact, you’re now a minority if you are a “normal” person who happens to buy a ticket on United. What’s the point of even having seating areas? Once the entire “elite” plane boards, there aren’t many left. United could consolidate seating areas 1 – 4 into a single category called “People We Don’t Give &#?*! About.”
However, there is one advantage to being one of United’s shunned. You can waltz right up to the front of the economy line and be the first of the shunned to board. There are no gate lice on that side of the aisle.
The elites now swarm the Premier line. That first picture I took was about 5 minutes before boarding was scheduled to start. As a 1K, United allows me to board first with First Class and Global Services members. How do I know who to fight through and who to assume is a lower status level? Maybe I should just inspect all of their boarding passes. Actually, that’s kinda what you have to do. If you don’t, boarding will start, and in typical United gate agent fashion, they’ll start boarding the next set after the first group without actually having the first group finish.
So as boarding started, I did my best to make my way to the front. This maneuvering is an interesting tactic that frequent fliers are too familiar with. You basically wade through humans, trying to walk the fine line between cutting in line and moving people who are not supposed to board out of the way. I looked at the boarding passes as I walked up: “Premier Executive,” “Premier,” “Premier Executive,” Premier Executive.” It’s official: Premier Execs are the new gate lice.
However, I must defend the Premier Execs. I would be a gate lice if I were a Premier Exec. With the old system, Premier Execs would be the first to board in the Economy Lane, and they would queue up to be first once the Red Carpet line boarded. However, now there’s no such organization. They don’t know where the mass of 1Ks starts and stops, and they want to make sure that once the 1K line has finished, they’re the first of the next group to board.
I think this change to boarding process was a misstep by United. And given that these Mileage Plus Explorer cards are relatively new, I don’t think UA will change this benefit anytime soon. I don’t blame Premier Executives for being the new gate lice… but let’s face it: they ARE the new gate lice ;-).