A New Way to Describe Elites Rushing the Gate to Board

Scott McCartney, who writes “The Middle Seat” column for the Wall Street Journal, had his column taken over this week by his wife Karen Blumenthal, herself a former Journal writer and editor.

It’s a charming piece, very well written, and worthwhile for that reason alone. What stood out to me though is that she seems to have coined a phrase to describe the rush to elite boarding.

There are all sorts of tales and frustrations around passengers crowding the boarding line. Those who line up early, blocking the way for passengers in early boarding groups, are sometimes derisively referred to as “gate lice.” The sort of passenger who doesn’t know the drill, that it isn’t time for them to board yet, is the once a year (at most) flyer sometimes referred to as a “kettle” (as in ‘Ma’ and Pa’ Kettle).

But Ms. Blumenthal turns this elitism on its head, offering us the platinum push off to describe the elite who knocks everyone out of the way as their boarding group is called. Her husband, she says, is a master.

I get that he wants to avoid the scrum over overhead bin space. But it feels unnecessary to me to line up early, especially since he’s a master at the platinum push off, the forward maneuver that knocks the rest of us out of line when a fancy boarding group is called.

I hadn’t ever heard the term before, though I like it, so naturally I Googled it. It turns out this really does seem to be her creation. The first result that comes up is… her Journal piece. The other two results include commas, are off topic, and link to Montenegro-registered websites.

Maybe this new way of describing elites rushing the gate will catch on?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I flew from JFK to Heathrow a few weeks ago on American Airlines. Boarding commenced and the gate agent made an announcement that they were boarding in group numbers. She asked everyone to check their boarding group number on their boarding pass. She even repeated it a second time. And there was a huge TV monitor saying which group number was boarding.

    But yet idiots with no idea about anything in life were trying to board at the wrong time. This is NOTHING to do with them being infrequent flyers and instead everything to do with people who don’t listen, don’t pay attention and who frankly I wonder how they get through life at all.

  2. I would have loved to read the article. Unfortunately your link is not active and through the WSJ website in order to read it I have to subscribe…

  3. I flew last week and was third in line to board for first. The guy in front of me had a zone 4 boarding pass. People had to ask him to move out of the way. The reality is the airlines have created a free for all with the overhead bins and people try to cut the line to get access to that space. Charging for checked bags is the reason why we have such a hard time with the boarding procedures otherwise there’s not the urgency to get on the plane for overhead bin space.

  4. One of the main issues is the gate agents not taking control of the boarding process, some are just willy nilly in their boarding others are much more regimented thus things move much more smoothly. Aside from the inability of the agents it’s sometimes disgusting to grown men pushing they’re way just to be first especially the people up front then they take forever to get there bags and stuff ready to sit. Disclaimer I am usually in first or business ( internationally) I have long openly commented in boarding ” we will all get there the same time).


  5. ghostrider5408: “I have long openly commented in boarding ” we will all get there the same time).”

    So you’d be cool with boarding last when you fly international first or business?

  6. My issue is not the Platinum pushoff but the line-cutter who deliberately avoids the back of the elites lined up, or Group 1, etc. and walk around the side to cut in at the front. I have no hesitation in calling them out and instructing them to go to the back. It’s about 50/50 as to those who sheepishly comply (at least pretending to be embarrassed) and those who simply ignore and cut in for the scan.

  7. @Boraxo – I’ve confirmed it happening twice now where on United a Group 1 member will hang out with the crowd of 1Ks who get to Pre-board….they kind of mosey around and act like they belong there. Then when they see the gate agent pick up the mic to announce group 1 they confidently start walking up to the podium as if they’re a straggler in the 1K group. Madness! Lol.

  8. @Steve S,

    As a 1K my peeve is other newly entitled 1Ks who think they’re now the bees knees and crowd the boarding area obstructing the families with infants who get priority over us. In several cases I’ve tapped on shoulders and told them to get out of the way for people “better than you”. I’ve also had 1Ks try to push past me only to then see my boarding pass and back off.

    The “Im a 1K” DKKWIAs are there, until they realize that there’s many more just like them/us (I’ve been 1K for 15 years).

  9. They need to put 1 of the 3 Gate agents present at most boardings out in the que to “police”. I am amazed flight after flight how many people run to the front of the line at first PA announcement! They stand blocking it, could care less even though thier Tickets states Group 4,5,6. Just idiots. When i fly internatoinally, say JAL for instance. They have an agent checking boarding passes should you be in line. Its the only way to go. And for @ghostrider5408,” Entitlement” my A**! I have earned that right over decades spending tens of thousands of dollars!

  10. An orderly process with the groups separate and by the rules would be just fine with me. That happens only about half the time in my experience. I do appreciate boarding early enough to get settled, get overhead space (on domestic) and maybe a PDB (I used to see more seat poachers, too, but that seems to have subsided). If the groups are all mixed together, and there is just a cluster, when they call the boarding group I’m in, I’m not going to be shy. If you are standing in front of me and not moving, I will ask “are you [1K, or group whatever]”, and if you aren’t, I will say “excuse me” and move on to the front.

    By the way, “Platinum Push” is very AA-centric. What do you call the move for a 1K?

  11. As someone who may have accidentally “cut in line” for AA for Group1 (First) boarding:

    It’s because the “gate lice” are crowded all around, there’s no actual “line” so you have no idea where the folks are (unless you want to ask the 50 or so people gathering around), so when folks start moving (from all directions) you kinda “merge” with the traffic flow.

    I liked the old United groups/lanes where it was clear where the line was (even the new boarding method still at least has a lane).

    Although boarding in Mexico (CUN, PVR, etc.) is always a big disaster. Just a mad rush as folks try to get in “line” for groups that aren’t even theirs.

  12. @Steve S,

    I actually have no problem with someone in the next group milling about the back of the current group and walking forward as the announcement is being made. I do that when I’m Group 1 and they are finishing with First. I don’t block them as I’m at the back, and I’m not at the podium before the announcement is made.


  13. There are reasons for premium passengers to board as soon as possible. On Delta’s domestic flights, some main cabin folks like to put their carryons in the First Class section which leaves limited or no space for later arrivals in First Class. Also on Delta A359’s to NRT or INC, we have seen the overheads fill up. On this plane in Delta One, passengers are required to put all carryons in the overheads during landing and takeoff. And there are no overhead storage over the center 2 seats. (I only know about Delta because that’s our favorite US airline.)

    I thought Delta’s change to the many colored signs was supposed to solve the gate lice problem. I haven’t even seen these signs on our last 4 Delta flights.

  14. I think part of the issue here is there is that a lot of the gates have nowhere else to stand or sit. Most of these high-density configured narrow-bodies have capacity for nearly 200 passengers. Yet, the gates are equipped with seating for half that. If they stood or sat any further away, they wouldn’t hear the announcements from the podium.

    I generally wait in a nearby lounge or cafe. I’ll monitor Delta’s app for the boarding call. Unfortunately, the gate agents are sometimes consumed with other issues or forgot to trigger the boarding workflow. I think if there were push notifications, it might help.

    Many passengers stand near the podium in confusion. Sometimes they had a tight connection or just made their way to the gate and don’t know the boarding order. I think part of the issue is that there are not enough gate agents to assist passengers. If no one ever politely moved asked these people to move, the boarding would take forever.

    I recently flew a JAL 737-800 from NRT to PUS. There were no less than 6 agents for a near-full flight of 144 passengers. They were holding up tons of signs and organizing lines of passengers. This was a start contrast to what I’m used to in the US. 757-200 and 300? 1 gate agent. A330-300 and A350-900? 2 gate agents.

    What do people think of the boarding group signs? I’ve found these work reasonably well at even the ultra-cramped Terminal 3 at LAX.

  15. This is interesting to me. If, for example, United has several “pre-board” groups, like families with infants, military, disabled, Global Services and 1k, and there is no lane for them, where else are they supposed to hang out when they announce boarding is starting if they’d like to be ready to get on board? It is not being gate lice if the airline gives you nowhere to wait at boarding time (such as a cordoned off area) and yet wants you to pre-board efficiently. And it isn’t being “pushy” as this article connotes by using “platinum pushing” if you are supposed to pre-board and have to get around gate lice who are not in the right place. As an aside, United still prints “Group 1” on 1k boarding passes (not “PRE”) but you can pre-board, so THAT’s not confusing AT ALL 🙂

    I’d also note that I don’t think it is the Platinum’s problem if they say ‘excuse me’ to the folks who don’t know what is going on or refuse to listen, and are in their way, when they announce pre-boarding for platinums. That is silly. It is like saying if you earn status you should forgo using the privileges because someone else doesn’t have them? I guess there is a fine line these days between earning something and using it and the concept of privilege with its negative connotation of undeserved expectations of special treatment.

  16. American could address this easily with the gate reader: reject BP’s with a higher # than the current boarding group. EVERY TIME. Then people wouldn’t feel as if they could get away it. Of course, I learned on here that PAX with higher status usually ask traveling companions with lower status to board with them.

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