Is this United's Plan to Exterminate Gate Lice? I Hope So!

In early 2012, a few things happened to make United's boarding process significantly worse for top-level elites.

  1. The red carpet lane, designated for 1Ks, Global Services members, and premium cabin passengers, was done away with.
  2. United introduced the Premier Access lane, replacing the red carpet lane, in which anyone with some sort of elite status could board through.
  3. United introduced the Mileage Plus Explorer credit card, and one of the benefits of owning this card was being allowed into the Premier Access lane.

The immediate side effect of these changes was a massive increase in gate lice. And now, because pretty much EVERYONE on the plane was either an elite member or credit card holder, it was now the "premier access" customers who were relegated to being gate lice. Here is the definition of gate lice, per 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 ?"

I blogged about gate lice a while ago, but today when I landed at LAX, I spotted a possible solution. See the pic below.


I'm not sure if this is specific to Los Angeles today or if this is the new plan, but it appears that United will be splitting Premier Access into two separate lines. Effectively, this serves the same purpose as bringing back the red carpet lane. I hope this is something that United sticks with. It doesn't hurt people who were already in the Premier Access grouping because of the credit card. They still board with the same group they always have. This should help make things more orderly at boarding time.


Brad December 21, 2012 at 10:49 am

Kevin- I noticed an even more extensive series of stanchions at one of the B gates at ORD. It reminded me of a Southwest boarding area, with a sign like you posted, plus separate lanes for higher boarding groups, 5-8. It was only at B9 or so, the other gates I saw just had the typical 2 lanes.

It seems they are doing some testing of boarding processes, which is long overdue.

Mike December 21, 2012 at 11:01 am

At some airports, American Airlines has moved the main cabin boarding line 90 degrees from the Priority Lane to better separate the queues. Does United do this as well to make it less crowded at the entrance of the the Premier Access line?

PK December 21, 2012 at 11:37 am

I dislike the definition of "gate lice" as "flyover country" because it sounds like an demeaning, albeit politically correct, derogatory term. Plenty of people in non "flyover country" are gate lice. On the contrary, in my experience, flyover country people tend to be better mannered (pick up after themselves in the bathroom, allow others to go ahead of them to speed things up, etc.)

The worst of the "gate lice", IMO, are the businessmen (never saw a woman do this) who put their carryon in the front of economy overhead bins and walk to the middle or rear of the plane. They're just too important, you see, to carry their bag all the way to the back. Next time I see this, I'm going to rearrange the bag so it sticks out and shove other bags around it so the FA has to check it. He can wait for it for an hour at the carousel. Hehehehe.

Kevin December 21, 2012 at 11:59 am

@PK, I don't love the definition of gate lice, according to urban dictionary, either! But... I thought it was hilarious that it was even there, and I didn't want to modify it ;-)

UA-NYC December 21, 2012 at 03:41 pm

@Mike - no, that would be way too smart (and decently easy) for UA to do.

We've got the same setup at one of the widebody gates in Denver.

I still don't think that this will do much to improve the boarding process. IMO, UA should bring back the red carpet for GS/F/1K/C ONLY, and then have CC holders and other elites use the economy lane.. Worked find for PMUA who could board an A320 in 20~ minutes. Now it takes as long as a 747.

Kevin December 21, 2012 at 07:16 pm

@FriendlySkies, How is this that much different? If GS / F / 1K / C has their own aisle, it's just like having the red carpet again... minus the actual red carpet :-)

It just seems like it will add more confusion to the mix.

The return of the red carpet would be nice, as the blue carpet is too easy to mistake for a general boarding lane.

UA-NYC December 22, 2012 at 08:48 am

@Kevin - PMUA also listed on the sign the four eligible groups who were able to use the carpet, that helped. Now it's just a generic "Premier Access" in navy, easily missed and mis-understood too.

Sanjeev M December 22, 2012 at 12:31 pm

Why do we make such a big deal of boarding in this country?? Thai can board a 747 in 20 minutes in BKK without this much fuss.

Anywhere in Asia I've seen that boarding is not a hassle. Even at FRA with the self scanners its really quick.

Judge December 22, 2012 at 03:14 pm

I hope all ff programs go to a fare paid basis so many of you become the gate lice you look down on

Fly Private February 9, 2013 at 09:53 am

Hilarious to see all the FC cattle complaining about the Kettles. I just avoid the problem in its entirety by going straight to the well-outfitted FBO lobby, where the beauty behind the counter hands me a cup of free Starbucks or bottled water, and then out to the ramp where my private plane has been pulled up and readied for departure.

There the nice lineman loads my luggage, and then pulls the chocks once I have picked up my departure clearance and am ready to taxi out.

No 1Ks, no C and no TSA people to deal with.

Fly commercial? I'd rather go to prison.

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