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.