In early 2012, a few things happened to make United's boarding process significantly worse for top-level elites.
- The red carpet lane, designated for 1Ks, Global Services members, and premium cabin passengers, was done away with.
- United introduced the Premier Access lane, replacing the red carpet lane, in which anyone with some sort of elite status could board through.
- 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.