Passenger Blasts United Airlines Telling Her To Fight Through Crowded Gate Area If She Wants To Fly

During normal times boarding can be chaotic, and passengers often hover around the boarding gate long before it’s their time to get on the plane – as though the plane might somehow leave without them, or that they might be able to sneak on a few moments earlier, and get to spend extra time squeezed into a metal tube.

Frequent flyers have a derogatory term for inexperienced flyers who do this: gate lice. But the truth it it’s not only once a year travelers who crowd the gate. Elites rush the gate too, knocking everyone in the way to the side. That’s known as “the Platinum Push Off.”

During the COVID-era though that’s no longer acceptable. We need to board and deplane in an orderly fashion, waiting our turn for egress and giving everyone else space to do the same. When that breaks down it isn’t just a mild inconvenience, it makes everyone else around you feel unsafe – it’s both a public health issue, and a confidence in travel challenge.

Passenger Lynn Simmerman Thursday about the frustration she felt trying to board a United Airlines flight out of Brussels. While the airline announced boarding would be “back to front” and started calling row numbers, passengers just lined up and crowded the gate.

An announcement was made for people to keep their distance from each other at the gate, but no one did.

An employee told her that she should just “push your way through” when it was time for her to board, she says. She objected, everyone is supposed to be social distancing to reduce contact and limit the spread of COVID-19. And the airline is supposed to have procedures to make sure travel is safe. She says she was told, “if you don’t like it then don’t board.”

She concludes, “I will not fly United again. The service was unacceptable. We expected to be safe and for my 4 year old to be safe. Nope.”

The Brussels airport points their finger at United for this, but also shrugs suggesting it’s hard to social distance in an airport, and offers this is why masks are so important. According to the airport’s spokesperson,

Of course, everyone should always respect the social distancing measures as much as possible, but we also know that this is not always easy. When boarding, or even when on the plane itself, social distancing is not always possible.


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, 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. Another internet celebrity wanabee
    Not sure why her post is relevant
    You don’t feel comfortable flying then don’t fly
    Imposing hysteria on others is BS
    Stay home

  2. @Doug – (you are) another poorly educated cocksure imbecile with an IQ lower than the popular congress of which the square root is 8 (“ate”) something. The woman was comfortable flying, which airlines and airports, TSA, etc. had assured her through public statements would entail social distancing and minimization of physical contact.

  3. I like Belgium but the airport and how it is run has issues.

    In one case our early morning BA flight was very late boarding due to a security issue. The plane had arrived the previous night but in the morning security check a door was found open and that requires an enhanced security check. The police was very, very slow to arrive and eventually the pilot came out and explained to the passengers why we were delayed. He wasn’t too happy that they were so slow to arrive.

    In another case we arrived in Brussels from Germany and needed to transfer to another flight and there was no security with the line. Due to weather everyone was late and people were pushing/shoving to get to the front of the line. Myself and another guy tried to point out that everyone was in the same position and started blocking people from cutting the line. There was zero security around to do anything.

    Each day we see more idiots that refuse to listen and think they are “special” like the idiots that park illegally just because they will be in the store for only a “minute”.

  4. Yes, if you don’t feel comfortable, don’t fly. That’s the #1 rule. That said, coming up with a system for boarding and then just giving up when passengers don’t comply is unacceptable and should not be countenanced.

    And it’s not hysteria to say that a bunch of people jammed together is a safe environment to have wade through to get somewhere. That’s just common sense. It is tough to socially distance at an airport the way seats and gates are packed together in the terminal. But what these images show isn’t a byproduct of tight airport layouts. These images show passengers being stupid.

  5. Doug – you’d be one of the bodies I’d leave on the floor if you pulled this.

  6. @jason
    Well, you certainly demonstrated a high intellect in your response…..
    This woman is an idiot, and clearly so are you

  7. What’s the point in social distance boarding If you’re going to be crowded like a sarden with a person next to you. Since United and American aren’t blocking seats anymore. I get it’s hard and all to do that, but what’s the point in all the coronavirus measures like social distancing while boarding when none of it happens on the plane.

  8. She is a ridiculous whiner looking for attention . No reason to publish such nonsense.

  9. United isn’t doing what they said they would do. You can try to repackage that any way you like but it’s the bottom line fact.

  10. @Doug- I think you are missing the point. I don’t think that this has anything to do with whether the woman felt comfortable flying or not. In this period of Covid, one does have expectations of having some semblance of social distancing. The problem is squarely on United and to a lesser extent, Brussels airport authorities. I fly out of Brussels a lot. United times their flights to connect with TUI and Brussels Airlines flights from third world countries. For many, that could very well be their first flight ever outside of their respective countries, so they are not aware of the rules and norms. United boarding flights from Belgium used to be a mess before Covid so you can imagine now. At the very least, especially during these difficult times, we should expect some semblance of boarding order by United

  11. So what, pray tell, should the gate agent and airline have done. Used force to sort the passengers out? Delayed boarding until a proper que was formed? Spent more time on the PA system exhorting people to follow the rules? Called for airport security to sort out the social distancing disaster? It seems that the gate agent asked people to act like adults several times. When asked what should be done to board by someone that clearly did not want to wait, what should the gate agent have said? Constructive criticism is good as is constructive solutions. If you can’t do that then you are just whining.

  12. When did this happen? United only re started flying to Brussels on Monday and the return from Brussels to the US- IAD- has literally been empty every day. Are you sure this didn’t happen before Covid happened, and that this lady isn’t just desperately trying to get some publicity?

  13. It says it was on Thursday. Something is fishy. United only flew their one flight on Thursday to the US from
    Brussels. It was EMPTY per the seat map. This seems very suspect

  14. Yes Jason. All those people wearing masks are just so this lady could get attention

  15. This woman should keep her entitled a$$ home since she straight understand how airports and flying work.

  16. This woman is either lying or completely unaware of how airports operate. The United flight in question from Brussels to Washington DC on that day (Thursday, 09 July) was booked to less than 30 passengers. Sounds like someone took a pic of either the security checkpoint of passport control and tried to blame United for something totally out of their control. Heck, it might have even been a connecting flight onto which she was booked that was codeshared with United. Grubby wannabe internet fame seekers looking for their names to be published. Shame on this blog for not doing its due research!!!

  17. My concern is the PHOTO used. This cannot be at the Belgium airport. Did you feel it necessary to show an African boarding to PRESS your issue??

  18. Pamela- I don’t know why you think that this is not Brussels airport. It may or may not be but one thing for certain is that this is exactly what the United boarding area looks like in Brussels. I have flown through Brussels several times recently (Pre-Covid-19). United times their departures to coincide with several incoming flights from West Africa. Countries like Cameroon, Ivory Coast etc. have (had) frequent flights with Brussels Airlines. This has nothing to do with racism or whatever else you might be be thinking.

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