The Folly of Assuming Someone Doesn't Belong in First Class

It doesn't happen much anymore, but when I first started to seriously fly on United over five years ago, I was often told:

"This line is for First Class passengers."

"It's not your turn to board yet pal."

"Son, we're only boarding elites right now."

"Hey. You're in the wrong line."

And when I responded that I was in First Class or I was an elite, I would be met with incredulous looks and even the occasional quips about how I stole someone's upgrade.

Well, now I run into situations where it seems obvious that passengers are in the wrong line or are not boarding when they should. Even when I can see their boarding passes, though, I mind my own business and let the gate agent handle it.

This supposed first-hand account I read on Flyertalk clearly demonstrates why all of us should be always be careful not to make assumptions.

I observed the following on UA NRT-ORD:

During boarding:

Loud young well-dressed woman speaking to scruffy-looking older man:

LYWDW: "You can't be here, this is for First Class and elites."
SLOM: "I would not want to 'doscomfit' you, young lady, please go ahead"
LYWDW: "OK, but you should go to the Economy line."
SLOM: <not another word>

Soon after a UA employee came up, addressed SLOM "Please come with me Mr. President, and I will escort you to your seat. We have already loaded your carry-on bag"; to the LYWDW "Excuse me, Miss, while we escort President Carter on board."

Not only had he been standing there like any other passenger, but his invisible security were never visible. The LYWDW seemed to be properly mortified. I have no idea of her politics.


Who knows if that actually happened, but it is certainly plausible. Bush 41 and Barbara were recently seen in United First on a SFO-PEK flight and Bush 43 was spotted on a SFO-PVG flight, so former U.S. Presidents do fly on United.

Let this be a lesson to us all: Never assume--and at least know what the Presidents look like!


damian May 25, 2010 at 10:32 am

This happened to me just last week, a 50 something man in a cheap tie walks to the red carpet, taps me on the back, I need to get by he said, I moved to the side.. thinking he was going to the agent at the boarding station.. Nope he walked in front of me, then stopped at the end of the carpet.. Turned to me and said, "This line is for 1K's, you might want to go over to that line" I looked at him... looked at my boarding pass looked back at him.. So this is not the right line for 1K's who are in First Class.. I could see his seat number and it was 20 something.. The agent watched all this unfold.. I was talking to her before this jackass arrived.. She made this guy move over, told him "please let Mr. Damian by" she looked at me smiled, shook my hand and said Welcome aboard Mr. Damian, good to see you again, thanks for your loyalty.." She just made this dude look like a total ass, I loved it..

HunterSFO May 26, 2010 at 12:31 am

Happened to me as a C0 plat in F boarding SFO-EWR on the blue carpet. A silver in Y wanted to go ahead. I let him and said I'm a plat in first class but boarding on this airline is a free for all anyways so be my guest. Its true. I hope the UA boarding process survives the merger. Life as a 1K on ua is far better than as a plat on co

@HunterSFO: I agree 100%. The red carpet better stay...

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